Years ago, a frustrated Manhattan chef wrote a very revealing book called Kitchen Confidential. That chef revealed a number of hidden secrets and grotesque facts associated with how restaurants, and particularly their kitchens, are actually run. Please consider this as my effort to do the same involving my observations regarding the practice of some law firms.
The dynamic of a traditional law firm, at its core, involves an attorney practicing law. The lawyer meets with new clients, engages in legal research, writes legal letters and court briefs, goes to court to battle for his or her client, engages in massive amounts of client communication through letters, phone calls, emails, and texts, then settles cases involving communication between a client and an insurance adjuster or an insurance lawyer. The job is rewarding but very time consuming if one sets out to do the job correctly.
So, the idea of law firm Case Managers likely arose after lawyers watched how doctors ran their offices. Some years ago, lawyers enviously watched their doctor friends expanding their medical practices by hiring physician assistants and nurse practitioners to handle more routine health care matters in their offices. While not medical doctors, both types of auxiliary professionals are, nonetheless, highly educated, certified, and licensed. They are often excellent and well-regulated substitutes for medical doctors and our world is better for having these amazing professionals.
This basic idea of retaining auxiliary professionals first seen in the medical field was later seized upon by lawyers plagued with being otherwise limited in the number of clients they could take on without being spread too thin. Taking on higher volumes of clients meant staffing their offices with more associate attorneys, which in turn led to higher payroll obligations. High volume law practices require more clients along with cost-containment efforts to avoid too many expensive lawyer salaries. To feed their endless appetite for business and money, they created a hybrid job. The job is called "Case Manager." The law firms that use Case Managers are looking to run large client practices with the least amount of payroll output possible.
In its purest form, the notion of Case Management is that many services involving the attorney practice of law could, in theory, be sufficiently facilitated by non-lawyers. Law firms that use Case Management tout them as a communication convenience for the client. In practice, however, the convenience of Case Management is solely for the law firm. The Case Manager’s job, at its root, is to run interference between the lawyer too busy to be burdened with communicating or even getting to know the client or to learn anything about the client’s case. While some law firms boast about the size of their support staff, the fact remains that the larger a firm’s staff, the less likely a client is to speak with an actual attorney. Firms that use Case Managers are typically, at their core, "Boiler Rooms," whose hidden agenda is solely to process, like a manufacturing operation, as many clients through their office "system" cheaply and with the least amount of attorney supervision.
Worse yet, while a client might carefully research their prospective lawyer or law firms before they decide to hire one over another, rarely is there any way to learn anything about the Case Manager to whom the client is turned over, who will thereafter see to the vast majority of the client’s legal needs. If you are lucky, your Case Manager is a seasoned paralegal, who was trained to assist attorneys. They are, however, neither licensed nor trained to act as your lawyer. Case Managers are sometimes disbarred, former lawyers. While they might have initially been trained to act as an attorney, clearly one choice (or many choices) they made thereafter caused their license to practice law to be taken away. They are sometimes ex-felons, and sometimes they have no discernible legal background whatsoever. Regardless, Case Managers are nearly always ill-prepared to take on the role the law firms have secretly tasked them with—acting as your de facto attorney. Case Managers are typically outgunned and way over their heads in their efforts to engage in settlement negotiation with highly trained insurance claim adjusters. This practice is not only frowned upon by our State’s Attorney Regulation Counsel but is per se the practice of law without a license.
The danger of this position is that Case Managers are not lawyers nor are they adequate lawyer substitutes. Instead, they are often simply modestly paid babysitters for clients, and clients are misled to believe that these professionals are working at the direction of a lawyer; a lawyer who is perhaps simply too busy at the moment (or ever) to be communicated with directly, but who is nonetheless dutifully behind the scenes working for the best interest of their client. That is a dangerous and nearly always false assumption promulgated by law firms that limit their direct lawyer involvement only to a select group of their most important clients—not you. At its core, the nature of this practice is to keep you from engaging in any meaningful way with your lawyer. Sound dangerous? It is. Does anyone hire a law firm in the hopes that their case will get relegated to a non-lawyer for “handling” because their case doesn’t truly merit the attention of anyone in the firm with a law license? We think not.
At ANDERSON HEMMAT, LLC, we employ No Case Managers. The professional who will discuss every legal matter with you from the beginning of your case until the very end of our representation will always be a Colorado Licensed Attorney in good standing. The person who negotiates on your behalf with any insurance company adjuster or lawyer is your lawyer. The person who will return ANY phone call you make to your lawyer—is your lawyer. We get asked to take on large volumes of cases as much as any of the other major firms in Colorado. Our philosophy, however, is to decline to take on a number that cases that would compromise our ability to service our clients. It is for that reason that Case Managers have no place at Anderson Hemmat. If you think you have a case call our attorneys at 303-782-9999 or contact us today.
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