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The Smart Consumer’s Guide to Hiring a Great Lawyer

Lawyers who rely on traditional referrals and upon informed consumers researching experience and qualifications are at a distinct disadvantage these days. Many people just respond to a TV or billboard ad because they have no idea how to intelligently choose a lawyer.

Recently I ran across an e-book which you can download — The Smart Consumer’s Guide to Hiring a Great Lawyer. The book lists some excellent criteria for selecting a lawyer, which I have shamelessly annotated with references to yours truly.

* The number of years the attorney has been practicing law. I have practiced law for 32 years, since 1977. That includes a hitch as an Assistant District Attorney prosecuting the full range of state criminal cases, three years in small town general practice, and a decade in an insurance defense firm defending personal injury, wrongful death and insurance coverage lawsuits for insurance companies, corporations and government agencies throughout Georgia. Since 1991, I have had a plaintiffs’ personal injury and wrongful death practice.
* The attorney specializes in the area of law that pertains to your case. For 18 years, my practice has been almost entirely representation of plaintiffs in personal injury and wrongful death cases. For a decade before that I handled the defense side of such cases. About 75% of my practice now involves commercial truck and bus crashes.
* The lawyer has good trial experience — actually takes cases to trial — not just going to court for hearings. I have tried about 125 cases to verdict before juries. I have had to document my trial experience for board certification with the National Board of Trial Advocacy in 1995, and for re-certification in 2000 and 2005.
* The attorney has a good track record and wins at trial. Recently, I have won jury verdicts for $2.3 million in a broken leg case in a conservative rural county in northwest Georgia, and $1.25 million for a cervical fusion despite strong evidence of assumption of the risk. Other cases during the same time period have settled favorably before or during trial because the other side knew we were prepared to take them to verdict.
* The lawyer has a good understanding of or experience with injury cases that are similar to yours. I have successfully handled cases involving wrongful death, spinal cord injury, brain injury, burns and back injuries, Competent handling of any of these cases requires a solid understanding of insurance law.
* The attorney has been recognized with awards and distinctions. Read my bio. Among other things, I’m a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, rated as a “Super Lawyer” in Atlanta Magazine, listed among the “Legal Elite” in Georgia Trend Magazine, have an AV rating in Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and am in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. Currently, I am the elected Treasurer of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia. (“He who tooteth not his own horn, getteth it not tooted.”)
* Quality of the lawyer’s website content is high and is very informative. See atlantainjurylawyer.com, georgiatruckingaccidentattorney.com, https://www.georgiatruckaccidentattorneyblog.com and atlantainjurylawblog.com. I had the first law firm website in Georgia (1996) and the second lawyer blog in the state.
* The attorney is the author of instructional books, articles, videos, etc. In addition to the links above and numerous articles and seminar papers, I am nearing completion of a book, tentatively titled Georgia Personal Injury Practice, with publication by West anticipated in early 2010.
* The lawyer is often called to speak to professional legal organizations and law schools. For a decade I served on the faculty of Emory University Law School’s Trial Techniques Program. In the past 16 years I have spoken at dozens of continuing legal education seminars. That has included chairing the Georgia Insurance Law Institute, Georgia Personal Injury Practice seminars for several years, and the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute. Currently, I am a trustee of the Institute for Continuing Legal Education in Georgia. Within the past three years I have spoken at seminars on trucking trial practice in Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans, Nashville, St. Louis and Las Vegas. This month I am scheduled to speak on trucking litigation at seminars in San Francisco and at Amelia Island, Florida.
* The law office offers real client case studies. In the interest of client confidentiality, and to avoid giving opponents insights into litigation strategies, we don’t put much of that online. However, I can discuss relevant experience in past cases when we meet in person, though the identifies of client are always fully protected.
* The firm or lawyer has excellent client references or testimonials. A couple of years ago in the midst of a tough case, a client called me a “sheep dog.” (Read the explanation.) Also see references and testimonials at Kudzu.com and Avvo.com.
* The attorney is knowledgeable and confident. See everything linked above.
* The lawyer understands that your case is unique and listens to your needs. Check.
* The law office staff (receptionist, legal assistants, and paralegals) is courteous and responsive. Check.

Ken Shigley is a trucking safety trial attorney representing seriously injured people in tractor trailer, big rig, intermodal container freight, cement truck, dump truck and bus accidents statewide in Georgia. He served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute in 2005, is a national board member of the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice, and is on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America.

He has extensive experience representing parties in interstate trucking collision cases, and in the past two years has spoken at national interstate trucking litigation seminars in Chicago (trucking insurance), New Orleans (trial tactics and side underride issues), St. Louis (punitive damages), San Francisco (dealing with insolvent trucking companies), Atlanta (trucking insurance, closing argument), Nashville (use of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations), and Amelia Island (overview of trucking litigation).

A Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale). In addition to trucking litigation, he has broad experience in products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, spinal cord injury, brain injury and burn injury cases. Currently he is Treasurer and a candidate for President-Elect of the 41,000 member State Bar of Georgia.This post is subject to our ethical disclaimer.