f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

January 6, 2006

the Miller & Zois “Help Center” disappoints

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 6:31 pm

You know we hate to be spoil sports.  Nonetheless, for the
sake of the innocent consumer/client, someone needs to
interrupt the all-day public display of affection between the
blawgisphere and the Maryland personal injury law firm of
Each of my distingusihed weblog colleagues has praised
M&Z for creating an Attorney Help Center, where — as Evan
“you’ll find sample pleadings, motions, discovery,
jury instructions, and more. An example of what’s
a comprehensive set of requests for admissions in
a vehicle injury case that would work as a model in
most states.”
snow pile
We in no way want to discourage lawyers sharing high-
quality samples of their work online.  And we presume
that Evan and Carolyn are correct in touting the quality
of the M&Z samples and forms.  Such materials should
(1) help attorneys to provide clients with competent services;
(2) allow attorneys to charge less for their services, as they
do not have to reinvent the deal; and (3) help personal
injury clients see how complicated or time-consuming the
preparation of their case might, or might not, be for their lawyers.
Instead, I want to point out that the M&Z P/I Help Center  
(of which the Attorney Help Center is a part) falls short,
in my estimation, in one very important way, in achieving its
stated goal of providing “real information of assistance to
injured victims.”  As stated in a Comment this afternoon at
Evan’s Trial Practice weblog:
“there was not a word on how to negotiate a fair 
contingency rate (or even that such rates were
I added: “If injured victims or lawyers would like to learn about
this topic, and find an ethically-appropriate Sample Form, I suggest
More can be learned at how much money is likely to be rewrded
and collected, and how much work and expense the lawyer is likely
to put into the case.” 
%key small  In the midst of writing this post, I discovered that Evan believes
I’m being unfair to Miller & Zois and that my Comment amounts
to Comment Spam — “the interruption of a thread to provide infor-
mation unrelated to the thread that’s of particular interest to the
writer.”  Evan left up the Comment, saying he agreed with the
substantive issue of contingency fees. 
Naturally, I had to reply, and here’s part of what I said:
Evan, I think we should ask a few clients just how relevant
my topic is for them, before deciding this is comment spam.
A potential client going to the M&Z FAQ page will find nothing
about fees when clicking on “How should I choose a personal
injury lawyer?”. The only mention of fees comes in the Answer
to “Do I have to pay you any money when I hire you?” M&Z
“No. Miller & Zois is a 100% contingency fee personal
injury law firm. We are only compensated if we obtain a
recovery for you. In fact, if you do not recover anything
from your accident and we spend money preparing your
case, we absorb that loss. Miller & Zois never asks clients
to front expenses and costs.”
By failing to inform the consumer that fees are negotiable and what
factors are relevant, M&Z — despite all the other good it may do with
this site — continues the conspiracy of silence among personal injury
lawyers that allows the vast majority of them to charge the vast majority
of their clients a “standard” fee that is the maximum permitted in their
jurisdiction. That is not putting the client’s interests first, and the idea 
that it’s irrelevant to a website that purports to inform clients about
personal injury cases is a sad comment on our profession. 
By the way, you say you agree with my main point . . .  but you have
never mentioned the Bill of Rights Form that I created and that has now
been up at my website for over 8 months . . “
Of course, I have no way to know what Miller & Zois tells their own clients about
contingency fees.  That is not my point.  M&Z has built a website aimed at a
statewide and nationwide audience.  It says “we get thousands of hits every day
to this area of our site.”  The Help Center presents a golden opportunity to give
lawyers and clients important information about contingency fees — or, to contin-
ue the conspiracy of silence that exists with the use of the “Standard Contingency
Fee.”    It wouldn’t take a lot of effort to provide the information.  M&Z is very wel-
come to copy or link to our Bill of Rights, and to make use of the summary that
we left at Evan’s website:
Quick summary: the percentage fee charged should reflect how
likely the client is to win, how much money is likely to be rewarded
and collected, and how much work and expense the lawyer is likely
to put into the case. The “standard contingency fee” that is charged
by the vast majority of lawyers is usually the maximum fee allowed
in the jurisdiction. Potential clients should negotiate for a rate in line
with the criteria above, and the lawyer should give the client a good
faith evaluation of the case, with all the information needed to be able
to negotiate fairly.
This weblog has its roots in the contingency fee issue — our first hate mail
came from a p/i lawyer.  We also had an early “debate” with Evan Schaeffer
on the topic (forming a bond that has lasted).  I hadn’t meant to write about it
today, but here we are, with another debate.  Please check out Evan’s site
(where I would expect more rebuttal from Mr. S), and the materials we linked
above.  And, please let us know what you think.
Meanwhile, for a lawyer who always provides just enough
information, we can look to haijin Barry George:
winter sundown
our waiter returns
with a flaming tray

lost flight briefing—
choking on the science
in their voices



winter sunset—
the art museum shimmers
on the river



half dark rooftops—
the sound
of falling snow


“winter sundown” – Frogpond XXVIII:3
‘new’- Simply Haiku senryu page (Summer 2005)
“lost flight”, “winter sunset” & “half dark” – Haiku Harvest (Jan. 2003)
                                                                                                                                                      one third gray 

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