Happy Anniversary to Me

Close-up of confetti

While I don’t plan to be celebrating my 32nd anniversary as a lawyer this week like the protagonist of the Cracker Song “Happy Birthday To Me” drinking “draft beer in a plastic cup” in the “parking lot of the Showboat Casino hotel,” I do feel the need to acknowledge it as a milestone.

I’ve been an official lawyer since 1990!

The Changes I’ve Seen

When I began as a lawyer, legal life featured:

  • Work was always in-person, in an office, predominantly downtown. People endured hours-long commutes to and from work daily.
  • Fax machines were new and used the curled thermal paper that was impossible to read, easy to get lost and out of order, and took forever to transmit or receive.
  • Cell phones were not in general use, email did not exist in general use, and texting did not exist at all.
  • Phones were landlines. There may have been a few fancy folks who had “car phones,” but those large bread loaf-sized contraptions only worked from the car and spottily at best.
  • If clients needed to get in touch with me, they left a message with my receptionist, which she would transcribe onto a pink slip of paper.
  • All court calls and appearances were handled in person. The only way to check a court file was to physically go to the courthouse, request the file and review documents in it (assuming they hadn’t been misplaced, lost, stolen, or misfiled).
  • We used carbon paper to write court orders in triplicate.
  • The last world-wide pandemic had been the 1918-19 influenza outbreak.

The only thing that still happens (and apparently, nowhere in the mechanized world except Cook County, Illinois) is that we routinely still employ carbon paper to write court orders. No one who practices elsewhere believes this.

Here We Are Today

Depending upon your prescient abilities, you probably had no expectation that the world would be uprooted in 2020 by the Covid-19 pandemic, but it was.

This has likely changed the way almost all people work, their expectations for how to reach and be reached, and the ways in which collaboration occurs.

Zoom calls, Zoom depositions, even Zoom court calls became ubiquitous. It didn’t always go smoothly, as evidenced by the one poor soul attorney who could not undo his cat filter and feverishly tried to explain to the judge that he was “not a cat.”

In many ways, this has fast-tracked us toward a more technological, efficient way of communicating, collaborating, and working. It has provided access to justice for more people and made lawyers better able to meet the needs of clients from far-flung, underserved areas.

Yes, even those of us who practice alone miss the in-office collaborations that used to occur around the “water cooler,” which was where we’d gather until it was decided everyone must carry around his or her own water or Starbucks. Yes, kids, offices often had coffee pots and water coolers and people would actually gather there to discuss issues big and small.

My Journey

In 32 years, I’ve only worked for other people for just 6 short years. During those 6 years, I worked as a lawyer part-time while spending 5 years as a Chicago Public School teacher. Which means that for 26 of 32 years, it’s been me working almost exclusively alone.

That may seem lonely or isolating, and it is to some extent, but I get more done that way than I did in an office suite surrounded by others. It is a setup that works well for me.

The Cases I Have Handled

I’ve handled cases involving nearly every type of personal injury or work accident. Explosions, falls from platforms, trucking crashes, motor vehicle crashes so severe one of my clients had both bones in his lower leg broken off like matchsticks. I even had someone hit so hard from behind, her face flew up to the ceiling of her vehicle, leaving smudges of her mascara.

I also handled a case involving a cat scratching my client, who wound up with an infection. I am certain my response brief to the Motion for Summary Judgment was the first in legal history to both cite the Ted Nugent “Cat Scratch Fever” song AND to ask the court to take judicial notice of the fact that “a cat is not a dog” and cannot be controlled like a dog. It was persuasive enough and I survived the motion and settled the case shortly thereafter.

Then there were even odder situations, like when the three half-sisters were arguing over how many teaspoonfuls of their mother’s ashes each should be entitled to keep. These were the days before we could scan things, so unfortunately, the court order mandating the negotiated settlement of 4 teaspoons to go to my client is lost forever.

Those Who Have Helped Along the Way

I am incredibly proud to have gotten justice for my thousands of clients over the years. I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful and appreciative reviews the overwhelming majority of those clients have given me.

The referring lawyers who have sent me cases are my lifeline and the true heroes to these clients because they guided those people to me with trust and I did my best to prove them right. My part-time law students clerks who performed the tedious and unenviable tasks of requesting, following up on, and organizing all of the medical records and bills for all of my cases.

Of course, I am appreciative of the family and friends and acquaintances who have helped me become who I am over the years. Finally, I thank my wife Beth for making just about all of this success possible with her love, support, and, in the early days, playing medical records clerk, file organizer, and blog editor.

Here's to Year 33!

Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman

As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.

If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has over 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.

Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day; contact Stephen now.

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