The benefits of practice areas you don’t like

J. Nick Augustine, J.D., is the principal of Pro Serve Public Relations, a PR firm for law, finance and small business professionals. Nick is experienced in law, business, entertainment, public relations and his Secured Solo Practice™ agency model. Nick enjoys sharing career growth, strategy and experience with legal job seekers and attorneys in transition.

Attorneys in transition are lucky to have the opportunity to learn what they don’t like so they have a better chance of enjoying law practice long-term. I remember first-year law professors advising us to try on many hats before picking the one that fit best.

I remember doing work at an insurance defense firm, early in law school. Later, I had the chance to work on the other side and learn how to litigate a plaintiff’s case. I think I learned more about insurance companies than I learned about evidence and trial practice. The long-term take away is knowledge.

First – at the defense firm – I sat at my desk for days on end, paging through deposition transcripts (low-tech late 90s) and hunting for pre-existing conditions, statutory violations or any other cognizable reason to stick the plaintiff with contributory negligence. I was encouraged to use any and all available resources to give my supervising attorney the support for our pleadings.

Second – at the plaintiffs’ firm – I sat in trial at the counsel table, watching a video-taped deposition of the physician expert, testifying as to soft tissue injuries. While waiting in recess after the close of the evidence, our expert, provided by the insurance company, explained how the computers and algorithms limited the discretion of claims adjusters and even the lawyers in settling cases.

Looking back I realize that the insurance defense firm was getting paid for every hour they spent and every resource I used. On the other hand, the plaintiffs’ firm lost big time when the verdict came back for specials but no pain and suffering – this meant no money for our injured plaintiff’s lawyer who spent countless hours and staff resources on a case that returned, what I was told, was an inconsistent verdict.

My experience in personal injury and defense taught me that the denial of claims on insurance policies and benefits generally is big business. At times it seems you need an act of God or Harry Potter to get these companies to pay. Who wants to do this for a living? Not me.

Prior to and after injury law, my main practice area was family law and domestic relations – the hourly billing suburban cash cow. Its great to be a paid gunman when the clients can afford it, and I submit that domestic litigation is good for the economy when the lawyers keep buying new cars and suits. The other side of the coin is the damage to the family, community and society generally.

Today, practicing public relations, I do more work in intellectual property, corporate and finance. Whenever these areas challenge me, I quickly remind myself of the alternatives. I urge you to try on many hats before picking the one that fit best.


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