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How to Become a Personal Injury Attorney

If you are an attorney looking for a new career direction, you have excellent verbal and written communication skills, and you are a strong negotiator, consider a career path as a personal injury attorney. It might be a good fit for you.

Personal injury attorneys help clients recover damages resulting from the negligence of others. Typical personal injury claims include assault and battery, automobile accidents, defective or malfunctioning products, slipping and falling on someone else’s property as a result of unsafe conditions, slander, libel, or medical malpractice. A basic understanding of human anatomy and standard medical terms is essential for a personal injury attorney, as is knowledge of insurance and liability laws.

To excel as a personal injury attorney, you must be an outstanding negotiator, a good listener, have compassion for the needs of your clients, and have the ability to work under stress. Personal injury attorneys might specialize in a particular type of personal injury cases, such as medical malpractice or automobile accidents, or even a more detailed level of expertise. For example, a personal injury lawyer may regularly litigate malpractice cases and would specialize in anesthesia negligence.

Sample job description

Personal injury attorneys represent clients in court who are seeking justice and compensation for personal injury. Many specialize in a particular aspect of personal injury law. Personal injury attorneys should possess strong communication skills, an exceptional code of ethics, and compassion for their clients. They must also be effective advocates for their clients. They must possess strong research and analytical skills. [Your Company Name] is hiring an experienced personal injury attorney. If you have experience helping clients find justice and compensation for their injuries, you might be an ideal candidate.     

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Advise and counsel clients on matters relating to injuries sustained through the negligence of another, such as auto accidents, assault and battery, or product liability
  • Consult with doctors regarding the extent of a client’s injuries
  • Write and file claims, motions, and court briefs
  • Litigate cases in court if necessary
  • Negotiate settlement terms with defendants and their insurance companies

Education and experience

This position requires a Juris Doctorate as well as a license to practice law in the state where the candidate will work.

Employers prefer candidates with board certification from the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys (ABPLA).

Required skills and qualifications

  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Knowledge of state and federal laws regarding safety, liability and insurance regulation
  • Research skills
  • Analytical thinking
  • Expertise in negotiation
  • Litigation experience
  • Basic knowledge of medical terms

Preferred qualifications

  • Able to develop and manage plaintiff personal injury cases worth 1 million and up
  • Independently manage a litigation caseload, working cases from beginning to end
  • 5+ years of experience

Typical work environment

Personal injury attorneys typically work in legal offices but spend a lot of time in courtrooms representing clients and in law libraries researching cases. They meet clients in homes, hospitals, and other locations. Many personal injury attorneys work 50 to 60 hours a week.    

Typical hours

The work hours in an office setting for a personal injury attorney are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, many lawyers work more than 40 hours a week, especially when nearing deadlines or preparing for court proceedings.

Available certifications

Personal injury attorneys represent a variety of clients, and many institutions offer certification programs to prove their expertise. Here are some of the best certifications for personal injury attorneys: 

  • Board Certified in Personal Injury Law. Board certification in personal injury law tells your prospective clients that you have the respect of your peers, and you are acknowledged as a significant injury trial lawyer. Board certification is specific to each state, and the requirements for certification vary. All candidates must be practicing personal injury law and must maintain continuing education in personal injury law.  
  • Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer. Being board certified as a civil trial lawyer demonstrates that you are an expert in personal injury or medical malpractice law. The eligibility conditions differ by state but require years of experience and passing a rigorous and difficult exam.

Career path

Personal injury attorneys are required to have a Juris Doctorate from an accredited law school as well as a license to practice law in the state where they work. College coursework in topics like biology, anatomy, physics, personal injuries, insurance law, and related subjects is helpful and can make candidates attractive to employers. Obtaining board certification from the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys (ABPLA), which often requires passing a written exam, continuing legal education courses, and getting references from other legal professionals in the field, can make a personal injury attorney stand out.

Most attorneys start in law firms as associates, then progress on either a partner or non-partner track, leading to positions as partners, senior attorneys, or of counsel.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 23-1011

2020 Employment804,200
Projected Employment in 2030875,700
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift71,500 increase

The personal injury law field is a crowded one. Personal injury attorneys should be aware of marketing and advertising trends in the field to make themselves or their firms stand out. According to several legal marketing companies, including the web marketing firm Digital Logic, billboards, buses, and television ads are no longer the best ways to market a personal injury law firm. Instead, the industry is trending toward more professional, comprehensive websites with lots of information for potential clients searching for a personal injury attorney. This information can include adding virtual web assistants like chatbots on the site to help potential clients and obtain basic information about their needs.