Where Do Cases Come From?

Need a lawyer written on the Wipe board

If you are fortunate enough to be a layperson instead of a lawyer (lawyer joke alert!), you may wonder how lawyers get the cases they have.

If you read my recent blog about “hammer lawyers,” you already know that prodigious advertising and marketing is a necessity for many injury lawyers, where the field of competitors is huge.

Taking a longer look at things might get you wondering how some cases wind up with certain lawyers and not with others. Perhaps I can help clear up some common misconceptions.

Keep in mind that lawyers are not allowed to solicit potential clients for cases, so the rules on this point must be followed carefully. To put a finer point on it, it is illegal and unethical for lawyers to send "chasers” out to the scene of an accident with papers for a potential client to sign up with that firm. This practice used to exist all the time (illegally). It still does, unfortunately. Obviously, if you are approached this way at the scene of a crash or in a hospital, you should avoid using that lawyer!

Where Lawyers Get Cases

There are some major ways in which lawyers get clients for injury, workers’ compensation, and medical malpractice cases. In general, they are:


Advertising is a huge source of business for many lawyers. It can be as simple as a “pay per click” model, a monthly fee for an ad to run (on television, a billboard, a radio ad, or online sites), or other type of paid advertising. Some legal areas, that are generally business to business don’t see much, if any, paid advertising, since much of their legal work comes directly from business contacts. However, areas involving “consumer direct” types of situations, like personal injury, workers’ compensation, divorce, criminal defense, or bankruptcy, find fields of lawyers competing for limited numbers of cases and advertising directly to potential clients.

Referrals from Other Lawyers

Referrals from other lawyers are another source of injury cases. The interesting thing about a lawyer who receives an injury case from a fellow lawyer is that they are legally allowed to share a legal fee with the referring lawyer. There are some rules that must be followed and the client must consent to the fee sharing in writing. Referrals are a large source of business for many injury lawyers. An example is the bankruptcy lawyer who befriends the injury lawyer and sends an injury case for a former client to that lawyer.

Referrals from Non-Lawyers

When a referral comes from someone who is not an attorney, there is no way for the injury attorney to share a legal fee with them. Now, are there ways to show one’s appreciation legally without it being specifically tied to the amount of the fee? Sure. Let’s just say sporting tickets, bottles of wine, and the like might change hands on occasion. But lawyers are rightfully very careful to follow rules on this so as to not endanger their law licenses. Examples would be a doctor who knows a patient was in a crash and was injured and appears to need a lawyer, a neighbor whose relative is hurt at work and knows a lawyer from backyard cookouts, or similar.

Outbound Content

Outbound content is a rather all-encompassing term. It can include just about any situation in which a lawyer provides information without charge to people to make them aware of what they do. Great examples of this would be blogs like what you are reading, videos, and podcasts. If you combine this with referrals from other lawyers, you can see why lawyers speaking to groups of fellow lawyers may kill two birds with one stone.

Why Does This Matter to You?

One thing any critical consumer should ask when they are thinking of hiring an attorney is “what type of reputation does this lawyer have?” There is a good reason that certain lawyers seem to always get certain cases. If a plane crashes, there are a few lawyers who have justifiably excellent reputations in those cases. Everyone knows to consult them. Similarly, there are some attorneys with a track record of getting justice when police officers violate a person’s civil rights.

Fortunately, in addition to asking your aunt or neighbor for a referral, we have this thing called the internet that provides a plethora of information on what type of reputation certain lawyers have, both in terms of success, types of cases they take, and reviews from clients. If the lawyer is good, you will be able to find numerous satisfied clients and results posted. If there are questions about behavior, demeanor, or experiences, it’ll be out there to read about too.

As always, the first thing you should do is access the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission website for information on whether a particular lawyer has malpractice insurance or any disciplinary history.


  • Lawyers obtain cases from a variety of sources. Learn about why this matters to you
  • Do your due diligence before hiring a lawyer.
  • Understand how lawyers get reputations as good, or bad, lawyers.

Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman

As in all cases involving injury, medical malpractice, or other 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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