Column: Don’t Make ‘The Worst Legal Mistake Of Your Life’. Why It’s Important To Hire A Local Lawyer

January 11, 2022 | 2:46 pm


When a reader suggested for syndicated columnist and lawyer Dennis Beaver to write an article about why it’s a good idea to hire a local lawyer — as opposed to those salesy TV lawyers — Beaver reached out to Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David K. Cohn to explain the importance. Below is a column by Beaver answering the reader’s question, as published in the Santa Maria Times.

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“Two of my employees were involved in an auto accident that was not their fault. They were about to hire an out-of-town law firm that advertises heavily on television because the attorney in the commercials is a big fan of the same football team they are!

“I told them that’s not a sound basis to retain a lawyer, and to stay local, as our town has many good attorneys. Also, I had them read your December, 2020 article, “Could Your Lawyer Have Cheated You on Your Bill,” which described illegal charges by a TV-advertising, personal injury law firm hundreds of miles away from where your reader lived.

“But they would not listen me, hired them despite horrible Yelp reviews, and now have large unpaid medical bills! Dennis, an article explaining why it is a good idea to hire a lawyer who actually lives in your town would help a lot of people.”

“Fight for You Rights” TV Commercials

We’ve all seen television ads for personal injury and workers compensation law firms that say things like, “We fight for your rights!” What they do not tell you is that hiring one could be the worst legal mistake of your life.

The California State Bar is investigating the fraudulent billing practices of the law firm in my December 2020 article – and they are one of many law firms I am aware of who illegally charge for expenses that the lawyers never incur.

So, Why Stay Local?

I spoke with Bakersfield attorney David Cohn, in practice over 40 years, and considered one of the most accomplished personal injury trial attorneys in the United States. He outlined the risks in hiring a lawyer based on snazzy television commercials.

“In so many instances, the TV ads make it look like the lawyer is local, but that’s deceiving. Many are personal injury mills with a local phone number, and even a local office address. But drop in and you will never find an attorney. You will almost never meet the lawyer in person, only office staff.

“So, you see their commercial, phone, overcomes an investigator who signs you up, and immediately they send you to their out-of-town doctors just to build up huge, unnecessary medical bills in the hopes of a large settlement which seldom occurs. And, you could be left with unpaid bills. I see this often.” Cohn points out, adding:

“When their dissatisfied clients come to us, we often find medical bills that are 10 times what is normal! Clients have no idea what they have gotten themselves into.”

One of the dirty little secrets of these personal injury mills – who spend millions on television advertising – is something clients are also unaware of: “They do not have your best interest in mind and do not ‘fight’ for top dollar! All they want is a quick settlement.”

The TV ads give the impression that the lawyer you see in the commercial —who you will likely never meet — is handling your case. But Cohn notes:

“In reality, it’s an administrative assistant, not an attorney! They take any accident case and hope for one with significant injuries which they broker to a trial lawyer–for a large referral fee — because the lawyers who run these firms don’t try cases!”

Will Your Lawyer Actually Go Court?

In spite of what we see on television and in the movies, few lawyers go to court. Very few personal injury lawyers have ever tried a case. But, does it really matter? And, if it is true that most personal injury cases settle before trial, should it matter at all where my lawyer is located?

You bet it does!

Cohn explains why it is so critical – even for what may seem to be a ‘simple’ case that you would never expect to wind up in court – to be represented by local counsel who are real trial attorneys – who will try a case.

“Insurance companies know which lawyers will go to court and ‘TV’ lawyers who just settle a case without going the extra mile for the client. This allows the company to settle your case for far less — often thousands of dollars less — than what is fair.”

And if your case has to go to trial?

“You want a local law firm that tries cases, knows and is known by the judges in your community, not someone the TV law firm found because they aren’t able to provide their clients with competent professional service,” Cohn underscores.

And Before You Hire the Attorney …

Cohn lists these five important steps before retaining a lawyer.

(1) Research and find out as much as you can about the attorney.

(2) Is that lawyer local?

(3) Does that lawyer try cases in court?

(4) What is their success rate?

(5) Go to your State Bar’s website to find out of that lawyer has had any disciplinary issues.

Concluding our interview, I asked, “What has given you the greatest satisfaction from your long career in law?”

“It is doing the best I can to make my clients as whole as possible. That’s my job, but, Dennis, as corny as this sounds, it’s really more than a job. It is a calling.”

Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993, or e-mailed to [email protected] Also, visit dennisbeaver.com.

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles now home to two attorneys state certified as specialists in workers’ compensation

October 10, 2018 | 9:57 am


The Bakersfield-based accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is now home to two lawyers who are state certified as specialists in workers’ compensation law, awarded to legal professionals who have gone beyond the standard licensing requirements.

The designation follows the passage by Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Beatriz Trejo of a wide range of criteria and examinations. Chain | Cohn | Stiles senior partner and workers’ compensation veteran attorney James Yoro had previously been state certified.

According to the State Bar, the program was intended to provide a method for attorneys to earn the designation of certified specialist in particular areas of law, increasing public protection and encouraging attorney competence. The program was the first of its kind in the United States, and it has served as a model for other state programs for certifying legal specialists around the nation.

To be state certified as a specialist, attorneys must:

  • Pass a written examination in the legal specialty area.
  • Practice law continuously for at least five years, spending at least 25 percent of the time given to occupational endeavors practicing in the specialty area
  • Complete continuing education in the specialty area greater than that required of general licensees of the bar
  • Demonstrate a broad-based and comprehensive experience in the specialty area based on completion of a variety of matters in the specialty area.
  • Earn favorable evaluations by other attorneys and judges familiar with the attorney’s work in the specialty area of law.

The State Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization must approve each attorney’s application. Once certified, specialists must maintain their certification by completing and reporting ongoing tasks and experience by every five years. They must also report 36 hours of education every three years along with their Minimum Continuing Legal Education compliance group.

The state officer specialty certification in the following areas:

  • Admiralty and Maritime Law
  • Appellate Law
  • Bankruptcy Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law
  • Family Law
  • Franchise and Distribution Law
  • Immigration and Nationality Law
  • Legal Malpractice Law
  • Taxation Law
  • Workers’ Compensation Law

Beatriz Trejo has practiced in front of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board since 2012. She is the 2017 recipient of the “Workers’ Compensation Young Lawyer of the Year” award in California. She is the past president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA), Bakersfield Chapter, and has been named as one of the 20 Under 40 People to Watch by Bakersfield Life Magazine. She was also selected among her peers as a “Top Attorney” in workers’ compensation law in Kern County. For more on Trejo, click here.

James Yoro is one of the most veteran and most respected workers’ compensation lawyers in the Central Valley. He is past president of Kern County Bar Association, and was recently recognized in the Best Lawyers in America program, which is the oldest and among the most respected attorney ranking services in the world. He has argued cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals the California Supreme Court. For nearly 40 years, he has fought day in and day out for the rights of injured workers. He, too, was selected among his peers as a “Top Attorney” in workers’ compensation law in Kern County. For more on Yoro, click here.

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If you or someone you know is injured at work, please contact the state certified workers’ compensation specialist at Chain | Cohn | Stiles to help you with your workers’ compensation case by calling (661) 323-4000, or chat with an operator or fill out a contact form at chainlaw.com.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney, Kern County Bar Association VP discusses proposed State Bar rule changes

December 7, 2016 | 8:47 am


As it stands today, the State Bar’s rules allow for lawyers in California to engage in sexual relationships with clients, provided that the relationship isn’t a form of payment for representation, obtained by “coercion, intimidation or undue influence,” or one that causes the attorney to “perform legal services incompetently.”

Now, State Bar of California — the state legal profession’s self-regulatory body — is considering a ban on sexual relations between attorneys and their clients as one of nearly 70 code revisions. It’s been almost 30 years since the California Bar Association last revised its ethics rules.

Recently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation lawyer James Yoro provided insight to Kern County residents regarding proposed changes to the State Bar rules. Yoro is the current vice president of the Kern County Bar Association, and will be president next year.

“This kind of conduct is pretty much commonsensical, but I understand maybe it needs to be expressed very clearly, very explicitly so that there is no misunderstanding,” Yoro said recently in a news interview with Bakersfield’s KBFX-58 Eyewitness News.

The State Bar’s ethics commission in charge of the changes says that the goal of the rule change is to “promote trust and confidence in the legal profession and the administration of justice.”

Opponents of the rule changes say they are patronizing to clients unreasonably prohibitive where the client is sophisticated and not vulnerable, as well as an overly intrusive and over-broad regulation of private affairs between consenting adults.

Yoro said while there are some privacy concerns, he believes attorneys should be held to higher standards.

“One of the tenets of legal ethics is that we should not only try to avoid impropriety, but even the appearance of impropriety,” Yoro said.

The American Bar Association already prohibits attorneys from having sex with clients, unless the sexual relationship preceded the legal one. The proposed change in California would exempt spouses, allowing one member of a married couple to represent the other without disciplinary rebuke.

Lawyers who violate regulations are subject to discipline, including loss of their legal license. California’s Supreme Court and is expected to approve the rules in March.

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If you or someone you know has been sexually harassed at work, or worked with an attorney who has committed legal malpractice, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for a free consultation. Call (661) 323-4000 or visit the law firm’s website at chainlaw.com.

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