Reviewed by Kenneth M. Trombly
For anyone contemplating the leap to plaintiff's practice, and to a small or solo practice in particular, I recommend a copy of How to Build and Manage a Personal Injury Practice , 2nd Edition, by K. William Gibson. Even if you are only contemplating occasionally handling a tort claim, you are bound to benefit from reading this book as well. While many lawyers who do not do personal injury work full-time sometimes take the occasional PI claim, a review of this book will make the reader realize that successfully pursuing these cases is often more complicated and rife with details than one might at first think. There are many traps for the unwary.
Gibson, who has more than two decades of experience in the field, provides an inexpensive road map to establishing and running a plaintiff's PI practice in 11 chapters. The book is supplemented with a CD-ROM that includes a number of forms, including sample letters, client questionnaires and requests for documents, all of which you will want to modify and use in your own practice.
After beginning with a discussion of why PI practice is different and advice for making the "big decision" about whether to go solo or take on a partner, Gibson takes readers through the basics of how to set up an office, hire personnel, buy computers, rent space and related planning topics. Subsequent chapters address marketing and building your practice, screening and selecting cases, keeping clients happy, avoiding certain problems inherent to a tort practice, working with other professionals, and a host of other subjects. Along the way, he addresses many pertinent questions.
For example, how do you get business from people whose cases you reject? What are some ways to maximize the effectiveness of your Yellow Pages ads? How do you manage the workload and deal with the many deadlines inherent in these cases? Given the breadth of topics covered in this slim volume—many of which would merit a book or monograph in themselves—Gibson imparts much wisdom. As supplemental reading, I would also recommend Anatomy of a Personal Injury Lawsuit, 3rd Edition (ATLA Press, 1991), as well as the latest version of Flying Solo: A Survival Guide for the Solo and Small Firm Lawyer , 4th Edition (ABA, 2005), for which Gibson served as the editor.
Also discussed in the book are the various case management and other software programs available today. It is, of course, important to cover these programs, which as Gibson points out, are "an essential part of a systematized approach to managing a personal injury practice." But if there is a third edition, I would suggest perhaps a chart that compares features, warranties, prices, technical support and the like. Even without the author making a particular recommendation, such an analysis would be useful to the reader.However, any minor shortcomings aside, I commend this book. It is often said about such books, and holds true for this one, that, "I wish I'd had this when I started out." And for the experienced plaintiff's practitioner, while much of what this volume covers may be familiar ground, you are still likely to find at least a nugget or two. In addition, you may find it helpful and reassuring to know that someone else follows practices and procedures that you do. Sometimes, the recognition that others do it the same way can be valuable to those of us who inhabit the often isolating world of the small firm plaintiff's tort lawyer.