By Mark Breyer
There is a very small group of lawyers that the State Bar of Arizona has certified as specialists in injury and wrongful death law.
Lawyers are different than doctors. If you need surgery for a broken arm you will probably go and see an orthopedic surgeon. An orthopedic surgeon is the only kind of doctor that you will probably see for that broken arm. That's because a gastroenterologist is not going to have anything to do with performing surgery, and neither is an internist. You will go to the person who has the most knowledge and ability to handle your claim and in medicine, that is defined by what they do. However, when it comes to lawyers every single person who is admitted to the bar is allowed to practice law in any area they choose. They can have nothing but experience in divorce law and still advertise that they practice personal injury law.
This is why bar associations throughout the country started instituting programs of certified specialists. This was a way to give consumers and members of the public confidence when they went looking for a lawyer in a very serious or important case to them. In Arizona, the state bar has certified less than two percent of all lawyers as specialists in injury and wrongful death litigation. That means that while 100 percent of lawyers can claim to be personal injury lawyers, can advertise as personal injury lawyers, can put up web sites that says they take personal injury cases, more than 98 out of 100 of the lawyers that would be allowed to do that are actually certified specialists by the State Bar of Arizona.
The fact that Mark Breyer is a certified specialists is not the "end all be all" of the equation. There are many great lawyers who are certified specialists. In fact, there are many great personal injury lawyers who have not yet been certified as a specialist by the state bar, and many of them probably will be at one time. However, knowing that a lawyer has been certified as a specialist is of significant value to somebody who has a once in a lifetime decision to make and where the outcome of that injury claim will effect every aspect of their life from that point forward.
Some people wonder how does someone become a certified specialist in personal injury and wrongful death litigation. Is it political? No, not at all. It is not simply a nominating process. In fact, to become a specialist in personal injury as certified by the state bar a lawyer must fill out an application, prove that they have conducted a requisite number of jury trials from start to finish in injury and wrongful death, and they must have done enough different parts of that case to even qualify to get to the next stages. The other stage of the application process included questions that are submitted to the lawyers in the community, the lawyers that the lawyer has gone up against in court, and the judges that have seen that lawyer act as a trial lawyer in personal injury cases.
Even if all of that has been accomplished and the lawyer has been able to meet all of those criteria, there is still a full day long test on nothing but personal injury and wrongful death litigation. Unless the lawyer passes that exam, even the most esteemed lawyer with the most experience will not be certified as a specialist in personal injury and wrongful death litigation by the state bar.
In our dealings with lawyers I cannot count the number of times that people who've had other lawyers in their lives had the complaint time and time again. Almost always, the complaint was that there was a lack of communication between themselves and their law office and, often, no contact between themselves and their lawyer. We will not allow this to happen. We have had a long-standing policy at Breyer Law Offices that our clients have a right to access us as their attorneys. They have the right to reach the lawyer behind their case, not get stuck with just voice mail or talking to the receptionist. The reason we are hired as lawyers is to provide the advice and the knowledge that only an experienced Phoenix Arizona personal injury lawyer can provide. For those people who've had a lawyer but they never have access to that lawyer, this presents a major problem for them not only because of a lack of communication but because of a lack of trust that the questions that they are asking are getting answered professionally and by an attorney.
Now, there is an obvious "flipside" to this. We are extremely busy. We handle extremely serious injuries and as a result have extremely serious work to do for all of our clients. We are in court, we are working on briefs, we are doing everything that is necessary to move a case forward. To this end, we learned long ago that simply giving out our number and having clients try to reach us could be a failure on a regular basis. There may be weeks long trials where we never leave a courtroom or the office and barely have time to check our voice mail let alone return calls. There are times when we are fighting for clients where we are busy at all hours of the day and literally do not have enough time to get a full nights sleep for weeks on end. So, we came up with a policy that addressed the fact that we are not easy to reach and that we are very busy, but at the same time understood the incredible importance of our clients being able to access our lawyers.
Any client who wants to speak with a lawyer need only call the paralegal assigned to their case and that paralegal will, without exception, set a time for the client to speak with a lawyer in our office. It is much easier to find a mutually agreeable and convenient time in this way than in simply playing "phone tag" which can leave one of our clients with unanswered questions. We take great pride in answering those questions and great pride in being accessible to all of our clients at all times. Moreover, in a case of emergency, all of our lawyers are skilled enough to be able to answer almost any question on almost any of our cases. It is one of the advantages to handling cases in the way we do and being as selective as we are in our case intake procedure and in managing our case load.
We never want any client of ours to ever look back and feel that they did not have full access to speak with a lawyer to get questions answered directly from an Arizona personal injury attorney. We simply will not tolerate anything less than excellent service to all of our clients who come to us and trust us.
When Breyer Law Offices began, there were no employees. There was simply Alexis and Mark Breyer - "the husband and wife law team" - and nobody else. Therefore, it was easy for those clients to have access to somebody in the firm from the start of the case to the end of the case. But, inevitably, we began to grow. We began to have success and word got out about not only the job we did in the courtroom but the job we did in giving service to our clients. More and more people continue to give out our name and we continue to grow. And we reached a point where clients would end up talking to so many different people on their case that we felt like we were lacking that extra and special quality that always made us feel that we were better at providing service and understanding what are seriously injured clients were going through. Therefore, we now have a system where an experienced paralegal is assigned to be there for our client from day one through the end of the case.
That means that while the whole office may work behind the scenes to move a case forward for the best possible settlement or verdict at the end, there is one person, besides Alexis and Mark, who is always there to get to know our clients, to be there for our clients, and to make sure our clients have their phone calls returned immediately. There is one person who is assigned the sole job of making sure that that particular client knows how important they are, how valued they are, and gets their questions answered whenever they need that accomplished.
And, of course, this paralegal no matter how exceptional he or she may be never replaces the lawyers in our office. As we discussed, all of our clients have access to a lawyer in our office simply by letting the paralegal whom they have a relationship with and who has been assigned to their case know that they want to talk to a lawyer. Our paralegal system from start to finish is one added benefit and difference for our clients that they completely deserve to have.
We refuse to simply tell clients what they want to hear. I'm talking to people who've had lawyers in other areas, it seems to be a common trait of many lawyers to make promises that they do not know if they can fulfill in hopes that everything will turn out later. All too often, we hear stories of lawyers who promise the moon and later fail to deliver. Now, anything unexpected can happen. But most often, the problem was in the original promise or in not being honest and up front about the problems in the case with the client.
For anybody who has been seriously injured or who has lost a loved one that simply wants to hear a guarantee that they will win without knowing any weaknesses in their case, we are not the right firm for you. Our clients need to be able to trust that when we give them good news it is good news and the way they can know that, is when there is bad news we give them the bad news. Almost no case will go from start to finish without any problems arising at some point along the way. There is almost always somebody on the other side who is doing everything possible to create problems and to try to minimize the damages claim in whatever way possible. To not share that with our clients is a disservice. We will not be a part of it.
We will always provide an honest assessment of the case with its strengths and weaknesses. If a case cannot be won we will say that at the onset and we will not take the case. We are not going to take a case to try to get "nuisance" value at the end. We will not take a case that we do not believe in. Similarly, if we have a client and something goes wrong in their case - a witness changes their mind, a witness comes forward we did not know about, an expert witness says something that was unanticipated - we will always be honest and up front with our clients. It is not our job to appear like we are the heroes for our clients setting them up for the day that a judge or jury rules against them and they never saw it coming. We will not pretend after the fact to have not known the risks involved in a case and try to pretend as though it was a shocking result. If there is a problem our clients know it. If there is a way to fix it, they know the different ways we can fix it and the likelihood that can be done. Whatever the case may be, our clients know that they have lawyers that are honest and straight with them good, bad or indifferent.
Would it surprise you if somebody who is a brain surgeon never actually performed brain surgery? What about the baseball player that never actually played baseball? How about the mechanic that had never worked on a car? Sound ridiculous?
The reality is that you can be a personal injury lawyer and never try a case. That's because the label "personal injury lawyer" by itself doesn't tell you anything other than somebody who is a lawyer in their state has the ability under the law to take on a personal injury case. It does not mean they know what they're doing. They literally do not need to know where the courthouse is located. They may have never tried a personal injury case in their life and yet they can hold themselves out as personal injury lawyers.
One of our differences is that we try cases. We take the case not only at the beginning but all the way to the end. When an insurance company is defending a case that we're handling, they know full well that we will take that case to the mat. We will take them all the way to trial, and when necessary we will take it all the way up on appeal. For anyone to be one of our clients, they better be willing to put up a full fight, because that's what we're going to do.
Now, there are certainly many cases that get settled. The vast majority get settled because at some point we are able to obtain a settlement offer that our client instructs us to accept. However, where an offer is never made that satisfies our client, or we never receive an offer that our client instructs us to accept, we will not abandon the case or walk away from it, we will not walk away from our client, and we have no need to bring in somebody else as the trial lawyer for the cases we'd been handling from the start. We are the trial lawyers. We take the cases to trial. We know our way around a courtroom and we know what needs to be done to prevail in front of a jury for our clients.
At first blush, this may not sound like a benefit to the potential client who is considering giving us a call. The fact that we accept only a small fraction of the people who call to retain us may not sound like a good thing. There have been times where we have accepted less than 3 percent of all the people who wished to retain us as their lawyer. So, how does the fact that we are so selective in the clients and cases we take on benefit our clients? We limit our cases because all of our clients deserve better service than they ever could have expected before they hired us. All of our clients deserve the best possible representation and to know that their cases will be appropriately and fully worked up to give them the best chance at success. When you have gained the reputation that we have gained, when you have helped as many people as we have helped, when there are as many people giving out your name as there are giving out the name of our firm, we cannot possibly take on every case and still do the job our clients entrust us to do. It is for that reason that we are so selective in the cases we take. It is for that reason that our selectivity stood of benefit of all the cases we take on.
Now, what about all the people who don't know if they are the right fit for our firm? Well, the obvious answer is to give us a call. There are some cases or clients we do not take on but we can help bring another lawyer into the case who may be able to do an excellent job as well. The reality is that not every client with every case is the right fit for our firm. However, equally important, our firm may not be the right fit for every client. It is about finding that perfect match that is so vital to everybody involved. For anybody that has a question about a serious injury or wrongful death claim they may want to know whether or not we could help them always give us a call. We are more than happy to explain the situation and, where the case and the client are appropriate, we are happy to take that client on and from that point on give them nothing but the best that we can provide. And, where we cannot help, we are very often able to guide them in a direction that makes the most sense for them and provide them answers to the questions they already had when they called.
We are not the only lawyers with experience. However, there are so many people holding themselves out as having "experience" in the law and so many others holding themselves out as "personal injury attorneys" that this becomes an important distinction. First, we are not just "experienced" as lawyers but as personal injury lawyers. From the day we opened our firm, all of the cases we handle are to help people get compensated after they have suffered an injury as a result of the negligent or intentional act by somebody else or by some other company. Second, we are not just personal injury lawyers, but we have experience when doing personal injury work. Third, we have been together as "the husband and wife law team" from the start of our firm. It's not just about the individual players having experience, but having the experience as a team. From day one through today, Alexis Breyer and Mark Breyer have worked together to solve the problems that face their clients. They have worked together in making sure that everything was done for the benefit of their clients. They are a team not just at home but at work. And even as the firm has grown, the core element of the husband and wife law team has never wavered, and our clients have always been protected in the same way. The right hand knows what the left hand is doing. In fact, the right hand is married to the left hand. Our clients get the value of experience in the law, experience in personal injury law, and experience as the team to help them when they are in need.
Too often, when we have spoken with people years after they had a personal injury case with another lawyer, we hear the story of clients being "forced" to settle a case they do not want to settle. In fact, although it is hard to believe, we have heard many stories of people who weren't even involved in the settlement of their case and they were simply told by the lawyer that their case had settled and for what amount. Not only is this unethical, but it goes against the very spirit of the way a serious injury or wrongful death case should be handled.
We strongly believe our job is to provide information and advice. When it comes to almost anything that needs to be decided in a case - the things that are not "lawyer decisions" but the many more things that are in the hands of the client - we do not just tell our clients what they will do. Instead, we provide sound advice based upon knowledge and experience. And in addition to telling our clients what we think they should do, we also let them know how strongly we feel about it. If we think that there is a decision that is absolutely the right decision, our clients can trust that we will tell them that. If we think there is a decision facing our client that we think is absolutely wrong, we will tell them that as well.
However, in addition to telling our clients our advice and how strongly we feel about that advice we will take it a step further and we always do. We tell our clients why we feel the way we feel and what information we have that leads us to that decision. The reality is that what we can provide is the best legal advice. But our clients are always in the best position to decide what is best for them. There are many times that our clients have to filter what we think is best legally through what is best for them personally. Every case is not the same and every client is not the same. So to try to tell a client what they must do without even giving them the information as to why you believe that does not allow the client to ask the questions they need to ask to make the best decision for themselves.
When our clients retain us they know that their case will end because they have made the best decision with our advice and the information we give them, not because they were forced into it.
There is a simple reality to almost every personal injury case: The defendant has the upper hand. Almost every defendant is either a major international corporation or a multi-billion dollar insurance company. They have assets and resources that no plaintiff can ever hope to have. They can spend whatever money they want to spend whether they need to or not. They do not even need to be efficient because their resources are so overwhelming.
That is why, long ago, we decided that we would do everything possible to level that playing field. We would lower the hurdles that face our clients by being more efficient and more savvy than the other side. One way we do that is by embracing the use of technology in our firm. When other lawyers did not even have their computers networked, we were already scanning in every medical record in every case. When many personal injury lawyers - even some skilled and experienced personal injury lawyers - did not understand anything about programs that could help them, we were using trial programs, database organizing programs, and case management programs. We do everything we can to give ourselves an edge in efficiency and knowledge and organization. In this day and age where technology is at hand, it is a place where plaintiffs can make up ground against their multi-billion dollar multi-national adversaries. Cases can be won without the use of technology. In the end, cases are not about technology. The greatest computer system and the greatest computer program will not win a case. Every case we have won we have done because we were able to show that fairness dictated, the law dictated, and justice dictated that that recover be had for our client. However, the cases can be lost for failure to use technology or to keep a strong grasp of every case. Therefore, while most of our use of technology is behind the scenes, our clients know that we are doing everything possible to streamline and make more efficient their cases. To stay on top of the other side and to stay one step ahead in every way that we can.
We have had so many personal injury cases, so many of which require so many different types of experts, that we have come to know which experts can be trusted to give an honest assessment of a case. Far too many expert witnesses tell the lawyers what they think the lawyers want to hear. The problem with this dishonest approach is that it often leads to being exposed throughout the case at deposition or at trial. Instead, at Breyer Law Offices we prefer to retain expert witnesses who have the credentials they need to have, the ability to explain their opinions that they need to have, and are willing to be honest with us up front that they must have in order to work with our firm.
The Internet can now provide an expert witness to anybody at any time. Years ago, before the Internet grew and before technology grew, finding an expert could be a challenge for anybody who is not an experienced personal injury lawyer. Now, the problem is not so much finding an expert. Their much easier to find than they ever were. However, one cannot tell by a resume alone which experts are doing a thorough job at preparing for and coming to their conclusions, a good job of explaining those conclusions at deposition or trial, and are willing to be honest even if it means that there will be no case to move forward with and they will not be able to make money. It is in this way that our experience allows us, dealing with so many experts and learning which ones are straightforward and honest and extremely effective at what they do for our clients that we are able to benefit our clients in the choice of different expert witnesses that we retain on their behalf.
Well, perhaps this is the difference that should have been written as the first difference between Breyer Law Offices and the other firms out there. Now, at first blush the "Husband and Wife Law Team" may appear to have no value to our clients. We mean, in the end, when it is not done the right way it's nothing more than two lawyers working together. However, our clients have learned that it is much more than that. The reality is that this job is not just a job. This business is not just a business. It is in every way the family business. Helping people after tragedies, helping them recover when they are in need, is not just something we go to do as we punch a clock from 9:00 to 5:00. We have built our practice with great pride that as a family - as a team - we would gain the knowledge and experience necessary to help our clients overcome the hurdles they face legally. We have worked together and we have worked exceptionally well and we have worked exceptionally hard at making sure that our practice would not just be another personal injury practice. That our clients would not just be more lawyers "in a mill" who are nothing but numbers. That our clients would be able to leave our office and proudly tell friends, family, coworkers, and anybody else about the experience they had with the husband and wife law team.
We are much more than two lawyers who happen to be married. We are a team in every possible way and that is to our clients benefit in every way possible.