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Retaining Local Counsel

A couple of weeks ago I met a new client.  She had been involved in a motor vehicle accident three years ago and suffered some significant personal injuries.  She knew she would need a lawyer to help her get the compensation she would need to survive for the rest of her life.  One day while contemplating how to hire a lawyer she heard an advertisement for a lawyer.  The advertisement ended with a 1-800 number to call.

So, this lady called the 1-800 number and eventually spoke with a lawyer who agreed to take her case.  Turns-out, however, that lawyer is not located in Ottawa, but rather in Toronto!  She had no idea when she called that the lawyer was in Toronto.  Initially, the client did not think much about the fact that her lawyer was not in Ottawa, and as a result, she would not likely see him too often.  Over time, however, she came to understand perhaps having an out-of-town lawyer was not in her very best interest.

This client expressed to me her frustration that at one point her lawyer wanted her to go see him at his office… in Toronto!  Now, it is not clear to me whether the lawyer was prepared to pay for her transportation to Toronto.  That’s not the point, however.  The point is, she is the victim of a serious motor vehicle accident.  She lives every day in constant pain and agony.  The very thought of sitting in a car or train for hours, or even sitting on an airplane (risk of turbulence) inspire fear and terror for this lady.

This begged the question for me… why on earth should this poor lady have to travel outside of Ottawa just to see her lawyer!?  There was absolutely no need for her to have counsel come in from Toronto or anywhere else, for that matter.  Ottawa is a fantastic city.  It has a fabulous university with a world renowned law school.  There are many, many talented lawyers who are attracted to living in this city and servicing its population.

I have been an Ottawa personal injury lawyer for many years now.  In my time, I have come to know many of the plaintiffs’ bar (ie. lawyers who represent injured persons).  I have a lot of faith in most of the lawyers I have met.  In particular, the lawyers here at Langevin Morris Smith are very committed and dedicated to helping our clients achieve the results they need to survive their personal injuries.

Our lawyers commit to a significant amount of continuing legal education every year.  Most of us, in fact, way surpass the requirements of the Law Society of Upper Canada, in our continuing efforts to hone our skills.  Our team works together on all of our files to make sure there is more than just one perspective given to any given problem.

We are local!  Our telephone number does not start with 1-800.  It is (613)230-5787!

At Langevin Morris Smith, our lawyers understand that our clients are suffering and in pain.  Our clients spend much of their daily routines going to doctors appointments, physiotherapy, and other forms of treatment trying their best to reach their maximum medical recovery.  It is often very difficult for our clients to leave their homes to come to our office.  Have no fear… our Ottawa lawyers are happy to come to you!

The client I have been referring to in this blog... guess where I met her?  That’s right… I met her at her home where she was comfortable and at ease.  She got to see me in person, without the stress of having to make her way to my office in Ottawa.  We are happy to make “house calls”.

The other issue that I think is important when considering whether to hire a local or out-of-town lawyer is understanding the local legal scene.  Despite being a relatively large city, Ottawa’s legal community is still small enough that it is much easier to get to know other members of the personal injury bar, both plaintiff and defendant side. 

In my experience, it is very helpful to achieving a successful negotiated settlement for a client when I know the lawyer opposite me on the file.  As well, local lawyers are much more likely to know the local judiciary.  That’s not to say that any lawyer has some special (and I dare say illegal) connection to a judge.  Rather, because we all appear before the local judges all of the time, we understand individual judges’ personal styles and approaches to trying injury cases.  We know better what those judges like and don’t like to see at trial.  As a result, local lawyers are better able to adapt their case to match individual judges’ style.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that just because local lawyers are used to the Ottawa judiciary that clients will automatically win… of course not.  We can never guarantee a win.  Plus, the defence lawyers know the judges too.  What it does mean is, local personal injury lawyers can use their in-depth knowledge about the local judiciary to help make the litigation process just that much smoother and hopefully easier on the client.

I write this blog because I know there are some great injury lawyers in Ottawa… including, of course, right here at Langevin Morris Smith.  I encourage prospective clients to consider who it is they are calling when looking to hire a lawyer.  If the telephone number starts with 1-800… you might want to question how great the personal service might be if they are not truly present in Ottawa.  By the way, just because they maintain an address in Ottawa does not necessary mean they are local lawyers.

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