I can't help everybody.

There. I've said it.

Nor can any other attorney.

Believe it or not, the best lawyers in New York actually pick and choose the cases they want to handle.

There. I've said it.

You may have a valid case.

Then again, you may not.

Your case may have some merit.

Then again, it may not.

Every lawyer has different criteria for what type of case he will accept.

Every lawyer has different criteria for what type of case he will investigate.

Every attorney has different criteria for whether or not a client will be invited in to discuss his case.


It's because not every case is right for every attorney.

It's that simple.

I know law firms who invite every single caller into their office.

They are flooded with people who think they have valid cases.

Their secretaries and paralegals see every new person who walks in the door.

These new prospects never meet with an attorney.

From those floods of new people packed into their waiting room, they must now whittle down those cases that might have merit.

They must reject the others.

That's a lot of resources used to filter out cases the law firm does not want.

I know other firms where an attorney will do a mini-consultation on the phone, lasting up to a half hour.

After listening to the caller, the attorney must now decide whether to invite the caller into his office for a more detailed conversation.

What do I do when someone calls?

Well, I will tell you that after doing this for 28 years, I get a gut sense of whether a caller has a case just within the first few moments.

In fact, by asking just four questions, I can tell if this is the right case for me.

Four simple questions.

They rarely involve asking "What happened?"

They rarely involve me saying "Tell me what happened."

Want to learn what I ask when you call?

The first question I ask is:

(1) "Did this happen to you or a family member?"

That tells me if you're calling for yourself, a spouse, a child or a relative.

That's important for me to know.

The next question I ask is:

(2) "When did this happen?"

I need to know when this happened to see whether your case is timely.

The time limit you have to file a lawsuit, known as the statute of limitations, is very strict.

If your matter is untimely, it doesn't matter what happened to you.

I won't be able to help you.

The next question I ask is:

(3) “Where did this happen?”

I need to know if this this happened in New York.

I am a New York attorney.

I am not a Florida attorney.

I am not a California attorney.

I know the law in New York.

I do not know the law in any other state.

Yet I get calls every day from people in other states asking if I can help them.

Since I do not know the law in other states, I cannot even begin to listen to their questions to provide them with an educated answer.

If you live outside of New York, and I know excellent attorneys in that state, I will refer you to those attorneys.

The next question I ask is:

(4) “What injuries did you receive as a result of what happened?”

I ask this question because I want to know what damages you suffered as a result of what was done wrong.

If your injuries are minimal and not disabling, it is unlikely I will be able to help you.

If your injuries are significant, I might follow up with some additional questions about how your injuries came about.

In a medical malpractice matter I will always want to know whether any doctor has confirmed your belief that something was done wrong.

Remember, not every case has merit.

Just because you wind up with a complication or an injury does not necessarily mean there was wrongdoing.

As I mentioned above, not every case is right for every attorney.

If I choose not to invite you into the office, you may still have a valid case.

However, it is not one that I will take on.

If I choose to invite you into the office and then reach the conclusion that I will not investigate your case, again, it does not mean you do not have a valid case.

It simply means that I am not willing to invest my time and resources to evaluate your case.

Some callers think, as this gentleman did that when I invite you to call me it means I agree to listen to every detail of what occurred to you before making a decision of whether to accept you as a client.

That simply is not feasible.

Your initial phone call is NOT your opportunity to tell me everything that happened.

Instead, it is a simple screening tool to decide whether your case is the right one for me.

Your in-office consultation is the time for you to tell me EVERYTHING.

I understand it is frustrating not being able to tell your entire story to an attorney you call.

I understand it is frustrating when you are not given the opportunity to tell me about every conversation and every injustice that occurred to you.

I recognize how frustrating it is when you don't get an answer to whether or not you have a valid case the moment you try and speak to an attorney.

The reality is that if an attorney invites you into his office and agrees to do a full investigation, your consultation is just the beginning.

Then, a detailed and thorough investigation takes many months.

It requires medical experts to give us answers to important questions to determine whether you have a valid case.

Remember, even though you feel your doctor did something wrong and caused you injury, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have a valid case or that an attorney is willing to take on your case.

Today's caller was a pleasant gentleman who had significant concerns.

I asked him the exact four questions I mentioned above.

I came to the immediate conclusion that his case was not right for me.

I offered to refer him to another law firm who might be willing to look into his matter.

He got very upset.

He thought I was being deceitful.

He thought my videos on my website were deceitful.

I asked how.

He was under the impression that when I invited someone to call, I would give him an opportunity to tell me all the details that occurred before I reached my conclusion that I did not wish to take on his case.

The reality is that this is not how it works.

As a solo attorney, it becomes impossible to spend an hour on the telephone with each prospective caller.

Instead, those four questions give me sufficient information to make an initial decision about whether this is or is not a case I'm interested in looking into.

Here's a harsh reality for those who seek justice for the harms and injuries they suffered because of someone else's carelessness.

Lawyers, no matter how civic minded and how much they seek social justice, still run a business.

That business is designed to run profitably.

If an attorney squanders his resources and takes on cases that do not have merit, he will quickly go out of business.

That's why the smartest attorneys I know pick and choose which cases they take and accept.

I feel bad for those people I cannot help.

I feel bad for those callers who are frustrated.

I feel bad for those injured victims who clearly believe that a doctor or hospital staff did something wrong to them.

That's why if I choose not to invite someone into the office I will often try and refer them to another attorney who might be able to help.

I want to share with you an important statistic.

Out of 100 callers, I invite in only 1-2 of those.

That means I must reject 98-99 callers just on the phone!

That is the typical rate at which attorneys who handle medical malpractice cases in New York reject cases simply on the telephone or in person.

You will find that most really good medical malpractice law firms have only a 1-2% acceptance rate for investigation.

That means that out of 100 callers, only one or two will be invited into the office to have their cases fully investigated.

Of those cases that are investigated, the majority of those are rejected after a detailed evaluation.

What that really means is that only a small fraction of people who call the office are invited into the office and then after a full evaluation are finally accepted and a lawsuit started on their behalf.

I felt bad for today's caller.


I didn't want to upset him.

However, he became extremely defensive and upset when I told him I could not help him.

I think he was most upset that I did not spend the time to listen to all the details of his case.

That's understandable.

It's unfortunate.

But it's also reality.

I can't help everybody.

No attorney can.

My best recommendation was that he seek out another attorney immediately.

Hopefully, he'll be able to find an attorney that's willing to investigate and proceed forward if he has a valid case.

To learn more how an attorney evaluates a medical malpractice case, I invite you watch the quick video below...

Gerry Oginski
Connect with me
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer