On June 24, 2020, Lawyer Minds published an interview with shareholder Derrick Walker highlighting his thoughts on making the right decision on taking cases and advice for younger attorneys. Lawyer Minds is an online publication created by lawyers to share insights from the greatest minds in the legal industry.Each week, they profile two attorneys from across the country.
Here is an excerpt from their interview with Derrick.
Lawyer Minds: Tell me about your practice and your law firm there in Virginia.
Derrick Walker: I’m a managing shareholder with Allen and Allen in Richmond, Virginia. With 38 attorneys, our firm is the largest personal injury firm in Virginia. We have eight offices throughout the state. We’re a full-service personal injury firm so we handle the full spectrum of injury cases. We handle motor vehicle, trucking, premises, medical malpractice, defective products, nursing home cases, food allergy and food borne illness cases, and sex abuse cases.
I know it’s taboo to refer to yourself as a generalist, but I really enjoy handling a wide array of personal injury cases. I like to see a variety of cases and issues. I have always enjoyed learning new things. I think it keeps me sharp. For example, last year I litigated a wrongful death trucking case where both my client’s husband’s vehicle and the defendant’s vehicle were completely destroyed in a terrible fire following the crash. Neither occupant survived. Witnesses saw the defendant’s vehicle suddenly blow a steer tire which caused him to cross the grassy median on the highway and hit my client’s husband head on. By the time that case was over I knew more about steer tires, speed ratings, and blowouts than you can imagine.
Last year, I also handled a nursing home choking death case, a premises case involving inadequate snow removal, and perhaps the most profound traumatic brain injury case of my career. I really enjoy the challenge and the excitement of shifting gears to learn new things. I never wanted to have a color by numbers sort of practice where I was doing the same type of case over and over again with different parties. While I can see how that consistency might appeal to some, I know I would get bored with that.
Lawyer Minds: Working in the area of medical malpractice and nursing home litigation, one of the things that I think lawyers most need to know is what cases not to take. It seems like we spend a lot of time, effort, and money on cases that aren’t cases and so screening at the very beginning is so very important. Talk to me about your process for deciding what cases you’re going to take versus what cases you’re going to decline.
Derrick Walker: I agree with you there. There are so many factors that have to come together to make a medical malpractice case worth pursuing. Medical malpractice is an injury driven practice. The cost of litigating a medical malpractice case can be unbelievably high.
I tend to evaluate nursing home cases a bit differently. In nursing home case we are largely dealing with nursing standards of care and therefore we are relying more often on nursing experts, and they are far less expensive than the experts we use in traditional medical malpractice.
Lawyer Minds: What is something you have learned in your years of practicing law that you think new lawyers need to know?
Derrick Walker: I think the most valuable thing I can tell young trial lawyers is that your opportunities to try cases today is much more limited than it used to be 20 – 30 years ago. The days where people can talk about a trial record that involves a thousand cases or 500 jury trials are really a thing of the past. We just aren’t going to see that anymore. With skyrocketing litigation expenses, higher stakes hinging on potential outcomes, and the proliferation of mediation and arbitration, we are just not going to see lawyers amassing those incredibly high number of jury trials. So, the import of that is that we have to expect that in our careers each of us will have a finite number of opportunities to get into court and try cases. So, we have to find the cases in our dockets that represent meaningful opportunities for trials and take advantage of them. I would also suggest set one or two cases a month that could possibly go to trial. While I’m not trying one to two cases a month, I certainly try to give myself the opportunity to do so.
Interested in the full interview? Read more.