Close X


Why are you hiring a lawyer?

Posted by Jason Perry | Jan 11, 2024 | 0 Comments


This article aims to explore beyond the simple notion of hiring a lawyer to 'win' a case. It delves into the complexities and common misconceptions surrounding legal representation.

Asymmetric Information and Why it's Hard to judge a Lawyer's skill level

First, I want you to think about the difficulties in knowing what a lawyer can or will do for you. It was a few years into my practice of law that I internalized a fact that also seems simple- just like in any profession, there are really good and skilled attorneys, and there are really poor ones. Complicating this fact is that it can be really hard to tell the difference in some cases. There is a complete disconnect between marketing materials, fancy websites, unquantifiable claims that suggest someone is skilled, and the actual skills that an attorney brings to your case. But, without having gone to law school or having practiced in an area of law yourself, how can you tell? (This is not much different than going to a car mechanic or hiring a plumber- you can do some investigation and check what you are being told, but at some point, especially with complex issues, you are hard-pressed to really know what skill someone has unless you have a strong background in the area you are seeking services for- this is a classic "Asymmetric Information Problem" in economic theory). I suggest that without having a personal level of education and experience in an area of law, it will be very hard to judge an attorney's skill level, but there are indicators. For example, if someone claims to be a "skilled PEB attorney," it may be helpful to ask how many cases they have personally appeared in for your branch of service. The PEBs don't publish or track the number of appearances by specific attorneys, but asking the attorney is a first step. They should be honest (all attorneys have professional obligations to be truthful in their dealings with clients and others), but past their own assertions, you can ask other attorneys about whether they know the attorney you are interviewing, their reputation, and whether they are known to practice before the PEBs. You can ask to see any published decisions of the courts that reference the attorney having represented members at the PEB. You can ask them about their knowledge of certain personnel at the PEB, like the Formal Board Case Administrators or some of the adjudicators that sit on the formal boards. 

Are you Paying for Time Spent on the Case or for the Lawyer's Skills?

Another issue to consider is the reason you are paying for an attorney- the time spent on a case or the result. Remember that no one can guarantee a result, but there is a substantial difference between choosing an attorney based on an hourly or flat fee rate and choosing an attorney who has experience and skill that results in their being able to work faster and more efficiently than someone who is not skilled. There are many firms and attorneys that will give wishy-washy non-answers about not knowing how long it will take them to work on a case but is going to be happy to spend a lot of time billing you for review of documents and research into regulations that a skilled attorney will be able to complete much faster. (Also, be aware of the idea that having more attorneys on a case is better. "Two sets of eyes are better than one," you may hear, but what often goes unsaid is that you will be billed for both sets of eyes). 

How Long Does it Take to Master the Disability Evaluation System?

So, what qualifies someone as a skilled attorney in a practice area? No one can say with certainty, but Malcolm Gladwell has written a book, "Outliers: The Story of Success,” where he argued that mastery of a particular field requires about 10,000 hours of practice. For attorneys, most firms have goals for associates to perform at least 2,000 hours a year. Using that as a rule of thumb tells you that a good measure would be five years of practice solely devoted to the practice area. I think this sounds about right. My first two years practicing disability law were at the Army Formal PEB in Texas, and I worked at least 40 hours a week directly on PEB cases. In the following three years, as a civilian attorney, I expanded my practice to include Board for Correction of Military Records cases and lawsuits against the government in the US Court of Federal Claims. Again, I worked solely in the area of military disability law during this time frame, and I think that it was likely around year five that I had a really solid mastery of the issues. (I also spent a lot of time writing and answering questions at the PEB Forum, which helped me by having to explain things in a straightforward manner). More than 15 years spent solely in this area of law provides a high level of confidence in my skills in the MEB/PEB/BCMR/Court of Federal Claims arena dealing with military disability law cases.

I hope this article was a good starting point in your consideration of who you want to hire. It is probably not the attorney with slick marketing and little direct experience or the large firm that will either double bill you or farm out the work to a junior attorney with little to no experience. Your case matters, so choose well!

About the Author

Jason Perry

I am a former active duty Judge Advocate who served as a Soldiers' Counsel at the Texas Physical Evaluation Board. In that position, I represented more than 200 Soldiers at formal hearings with impressive results. In addition to representing Soldiers, I was responsible for training new attorneys ...


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

The Law Office of Jason Perry, LLC Is Here for You

At The Law Office of Jason Perry, LLC, I focus on military disability and I am here to listen to you and help you navigate the legal system.

Contact Me Today

The Law Office of Jason Perry, LLC is committed to answering your questions about military disability issues. I offer consultations and I'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact me today to schedule an appointment.

Virtual Office