This scenario happens a lot: a Veteran calls our Firm, and asks for us to take a look at their case for possible representation.
Proudly, they announce that they have just fired their accredited VA attorney.
[INSERT SOUND OF RECORD SCREECHING].
“Why would you fire your attorney?”, I ask.
The Veteran responds: “Because Attorney Cheatem over at the Dewey Cheatem and Howe Law Firm told us that they were ethically prohibited from talking to someone who is represented by an attorney.”
Rule #1: Never trust the guys over at Dewey Cheatem and Howe.
The myth that you can’t talk to an attorney if you are already represented is one of those “myths” that infects the legal profession like a bad case of, well, that stuff the First Sergeant warned you about if you spent too much time downrange in Tongduchon.
Let’s set the record straight.
Any human being – or corporation – or representative of a human being or corporation, is entitled to get a second opinion from any lawyer they want – even if they are represented by another lawyer.
The confusion comes from 2 scenarios:
1) Some lawyers don’t know the ethical rules.
They read a rule that prohibits attorneys from talking about a matter to a person they know to be represented by an attorney.
They know that this rule prohibits them from talking to the other party in litigation.
They then assume that rule prohibits them from discussing a case to give a ‘second opinion’. They don’t go on to read the REST of the Ethical Rules that state things like this:
“[This Rule] does not prohibit a lawyer from furnishing a “second opinion” in a matter to one requesting such opinion, nor from discussing employment in the matter if requested to do so.”
— Texas Disciplinary Rule of Professional Conduct for Attorneys, Rule 4.02 (Comment 2).
Seriously – if I had a nickel for every attorney I’ve heard say that the Rules of Ethics prevent them from providing a “second opinion” to someone who is currently represented by an attorney, I’d have a helluva lot of nickels.
2) Some lawyers are just trying to get rid of you and don’t have the backbone to tell you that.
Some law firms have a policy that they don’t provide second opinions – there is nothing wrong with that and it is a totally legitimate way of doing business.
Some law firms have a policy that they won’t talk to Veterans that are already working with an accredited VA attorney, and they’ll tell you that. Again, totally legitimate.
There are others, though, that blame the so-called “Rules of Ethics” so that they don’t have to “own” their own decisions.
You can spot these folks because they don’t “own” their own decisions.
Instead of saying: “We don’t offer second opinions”, they blame the rules of ethics for not ALLOWING them to help you.
Here’s what to watch out for.
What you should watch out for are the Firms and the accredited VA attorney that won’t take ownership of their own decisions, and try to spin some B.S. your way.
These are the ones that tell you: “Ethical rules don’t allow us to talk to you about your Veterans’ claims before the VA until you fire your current attorney.”
If an accredited VA attorney tells you that, run away – quickly.
VA Claims are hard enough as it is – why would you want someone representing you that can’t even understand their own ethical obligations?
That said, there is a difference between that kind of accredited VA attorney and the kind of accredited VA attorney that OWNS their decisions.
As accredited VA attorneys , folks often think that we have some magical ability to help everyone.
I wish that were true.
But the fact of the matter is that we can’t help everyone, and so we make conscious decisions sometimes to handle – and NOT handle – certain types of claims.
For example, at my law firm (the Attig Law Firm) we do not handle VA Medical Malpractice claims. Not our cup of tea, we don’t have the resources, yadda yadda. A million reasons why we won’t take one of these types of cases.
But here’s a key difference: We Own our Decision not to take these kinds of cases. We will tell you straight up – our firm doesn’t handle these kinds of cases.
Watch out for lawyers and law firms that don’t own their decisions.
Shop for Attorneys BEFORE you Hire One.
Veterans, like any other group of people, tend to “attorney shop”.
No problem here, at all.
In fact, I WANT you to talk to at least 3 accredited VA attorneys before you consider hiring one.
The problem is that a lot of Veterans “attorney-shop” after they’ve hired an accredited VA attorney.
Attorney-shopping after you’ve hired an accredited VA attorney raises red flags.
One of these red flags is what I call “The Cheating Girlfriend.”
Back when I was dating, if I met a girl who was already dating someone else but told me she was “single” or “available”, I wouldn’t give out my number or go on a date.
If she was going to shop around on her current boyfriend, she would probably do it to me, too.
But when a Veteran calls me up and wants a second opinion on the work of their current accredited VA attorney, I get a little suspicious.
So, the smart thing to do is shop for your accredited VA attorney BEFORE you hire one.
I’m surprised how many Veterans hire the first accredited VA attorney that makes an offer to them.
Shop around – there are a lot of us:
We all do very different work.
We have very different relationships with our clients.
We have very different approaches to our cases.
We have big differences in the types of cases we take.
I want to help you “shop” for an attorney, so I’ve published a FREE eBook: 8 Things Veterans Should Know Before Hiring an Attorney.
Have you read it?
PS…this is not a “hint” to contact the Blog or my law firm with second opinion requests – to the contrary. The Blog doesn’t represent Veterans, and my law firm has enough “first-opinions” we are helping with.
I write this blog simply because there are more Veterans than my law firm can help – and many of you can solve your own problems with just a little bit of information.
Bottom line up front: do your homework BEFORE you hire an accredited VA attorney.
But if you want to change horses mid-race, then just know that you can do that, if the law firm you reach out to is willing to give a second opinion.