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Articles Posted in Lawyers

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Today I am going to blog about legal advertising and my love/hate relationship with it.

First, why do Syracuse NY area personal injury lawyers like us have to advertise at all?

The question is a fair one.  After all, our law firm is, according not just to us, but to many of the best lawyers and judges in the area, one of the top personal injury law firms in all of Upstate New York.  We have won many awards and recognitions for our outstanding results and performances in court.  Judges and fellow lawyers sing our praises, as do former clients.  So why do we have to advertise at all? Shouldn’t word of mouth bring us more cases than we can handle?

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We are pleased to announce that all four of M&S’s lawyers have once again been ranked in the publication The Best Lawyers in America©  (2022 edition). Dave Kalabanka was listed for representing plaintiffs in personal injury and products liability litigation, Lee Michaels and Jan Smolak for personal injury litigation, and Mike Bersani for personal injury, products liability and professional malpractice litigation.

Since it was first published in 1983, The Best Lawyers in America® has been regarded as the most serious guide to ranking and honoring top lawyers. In order to compile their Best Lawyers lists, the publishers use an exhaustive “peer-review” evaluation system. Lawyers and judges who have been named Best Lawyers are eligible to vote on the legal abilities of other lawyers based on their specific practice areas around the world. For the 2022 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America©, 10.8 million evaluations were analyzed, which resulted in more than 66,000 leading lawyers in 147 practice areas being included in the new edition. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; therefore, inclusion in Best Lawyers is not a paid-for vanity listing.  It is a true recognition by one’s peers of legal accomplishment.

We are proud of our top-ranked position in the The Best Lawyers in America publication.  We promise to keep working hard to maintain that ranking. Michaels & Smolak is a premier Syracuse-based law firm recognized around the State of New York for its legal excellence in the field of representing plaintiffs in personal injury, product liability, and professional  Call us to get a free consultation about your case.

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Hello there blog readers!  This is Dave Kalabanka, Mike Bersani’s partner. I’ve hijacked his blog for today to interview Mike about another important award he just got: Mike has been selected the 2022 “Lawyer of the Year” for the Syracuse metropolitan area in the field of “professional malpractice” for his outstanding representation of victims of legal or other professional malpractice. A publication called “Best Lawyers in America” bestows this honor on the lawyer with the highest overall positive peer-feedback (judges and other lawyers rate him higher than any other lawyer) for a specific practice area and geographic region. Yes, Mike was the highest ranking attorney in the field of representing victims of legal and other professional malpractice for the entire Syracuse Metropolitan area.

This new honor comes on the heels of Mike’s being named the 2021 “lawyer of the year” for the Syracuse Metropolitan area in the field of representing personal injury plaintiffs.

Given his second-year-in-a-row “Best Lawyer designation, I decided to take some time from Mike’s busy schedule to interview him:

Ok, the headline of this blog was over the top.  Just trying to grab your attention!  If you have read this far, it worked!

But we really are damn good at what we do.  I don’t usually blog about our firm (too modest!).  We like our results to speak for themselves.  (And do they ever:  Check them out here). If you look back at my past blog posts,  you will see they are about cases we have had or changes in personal injury law.  But today I am going to blog about us because I really do believe we hold a very special niche among personal injury law firms in the Syracuse and Central NY area, and perhaps in all upstate NY.

First, we have virtually NO TURNOVER.  The four lawyers on our team are the same four lawyers who were with us back in the year 2000.  We have no “associates” or junior lawyers.  All four of us are seasoned, trial-proven personal injury litigators.  The same goes for our staff.  Becky and Michel, our two legal assistants, have been with Michaels & Smolak longer than even two of our lawyers!  After more than 20 years experience, they are top in their field in preparing pleadings, reviewing and analyzing medical records, drafting letters, and just keeping on top of our files.

My law firm is one of the few – if not the only – law firm in the Syracuse area whose case load includes a significant amount of legal malpractice cases. Unlike some firms, we are not afraid to sue our colleagues when they “mess up”. Here I am going to talk about an important legal malpractice statute-of-limitations issue that we have been arguing.

Two times recently, in two different courts, our clients’ legal malpractice lawsuits were dismissed by a trial judge because they were sued after the three-year legal malpractice statute of limitations had run.  In both cases, we argued that a “toll” should be applied to extend the normal three-year statute of limitations based on a legal concept known as the “continuous representation doctrine”.

What’s the continuous representation doctrine?  Basically it says that the statute of limitations clock gets “tolled” – does not start to run – until the lawyer finishes representing the client on the same matter in which he malpracticed the client.  So, for example, if your lawyer forgets to enter critical evidence at your trial, the three-year clock won’t start to run – it will be tolled — until he has finished trying your case, making any post-trial motions, and taking any appeals.  This could be many years after the original mistake.  Whenever he is completely done representing you “in that same matter” that he malpracticed you, the  three-year statute of limitations for suing him begins to run.

Decades ago, when I was just a baby NY personal injury lawyer, most of my personal injury clients came from lawyer referrals.  Those other lawyers knew that my firm concentrated  in the field of personal injury law.  Those lawyers had discovered from past referrals to us that we got top results even with difficult cases.  Those lawyers in turn would tell other lawyers about us, and our referral base grew and grew in Syracuse, the Central New York area, and across the entire Upstate New York region.

Even back in those days, however, there were always some “cold calls” – people who found us not by referral from other lawyers, but directly, the old-fashioned way, by something called “the yellow pages”.  (If you are younger than 30, ask mom and dad).  But by and large it was our trusting network of referring lawyers who fed our personal injury pipeline.

Then came lawyer advertising. This followed on the heals of the Supreme Court case Bates v. State Bar of Arizona finding that bar association rules banning or strictly limiting lawyer advertising violated the First Amendment’s guaranty of free speech. The proverbial floodgates opened, and the flood of tacky “INJURED?” billboards and TV ads rushed in.

Attorney Mike Bersani

This is Dave Kalabanka, Mike Bersani’s partner, high-jacking his blog (again) to write about yet another award Mike has received for his outstanding work representing personal injury victims. Recently, I blogged about Mike being named “Personal Injury Lawyer of the Year” for 2021 by the publication Best Lawyers in America, which deemed him the “number one” ranked personal injury lawyer in all of the Syracuse metropolitan lawyer based on peer reviews (judges and other lawyers ratings). 

I am proud to announce that our own Mike Bersani has now been named to the Blue Ribbon Panel of Super Lawyers. Let’s unravel this new award:  Super Lawyers is a national publication that lists only the best lawyers in each field of law (top 5%).  All the lawyers at Michaels & Smolak are listed as “Super Lawyers” in the field of personal injury law.  The publishers of the Super Lawyers directory choose who to designate as Super Lawyers by way of a multi-phase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and “peer reviews” (lawyers rating each other) by practice area. 

I have not looked back to see how many years in a row our firm has made this top ranking, but it’s been quite a few.  Sometimes I wonder whether the folks at “Best Lawyers” even bother checking on us.  Maybe they just assume we have not declined in skill, talent or experience and therefore just “rubberstamp” our “Tier 1” ranking year after year?

But that’s not the way it works, at least according to them.  A firm must have at least one attorney who is recognized in the current edition of Best Lawyers in order to qualify for being ranked as a “Best Law Firm” in their publication. (All four of our lawyers are listed).  After that first condition is met, Best Lawyers says they then dig deeper, collecting data from the firms’ clients, and eliciting “votes” from other lawyers in the area.   (And no we can’t vote for ourselves.)  According to Best Lawyers, “all of the quantitative and qualitative data is then combined into an overall ‘Best Law Firms’ score for each firm.”

Somehow this process always seems to make us land in the top tier.  Good for us!

As anyone who has not been living under a rock knows, it’s election season.  Boy, is it!  The Trump/Biden contention is one of the most – well – contentious in modern history.  It’s a battle of two completely opposite and irreconcilable narratives:

Trump says he has performed brilliantly in fighting the coronavirus.  Biden says he has failed miserably.

Trump says Biden is senile and incapable of governing.  Biden says Trump is a narcissistic egoist whose every act is aimed at self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment.

Hello there blog readers!  I’m back after my partner Dave Kalabanka hi-hacked this site last week to write about that “Personal Injury Lawyer of the Year” award.  What Dave did not mention is that ALL four lawyers at Michaels & Smolak were again listed for their representation of personal injury victims in the Best Lawyers in America publication this year.  In addition, Dave Kalabanka and I were listed in the categories of representing injured plaintiffs in product liability litigation , and I was also listed for representing victims of professional malpractice.  All these listings were based on “peer review”, meaning that the folks at Best Lawyers asked other lawyers and judges who know our work to rate us.  Most of those rating us were likely our opponents and judges since they best know our work.  So we are all very proud to have made such a strong impression on them.

What the Best Lawyers listings don’t tell is this:  At Michaels & Smolak we don’t work as isolated lawyers representing individual clients.  So it’s a bit misleading to rate us individually. Rather, we work as a team, meeting every second week to discuss our cases.  We also pitch in with the actual heavy lifting on each other’s cases.  For example, Jan smolak might have a case where I will draft his summary judgement motion papers or argue his appeal, or I might do his legal research.  Dave Kalabanka might consult with his network of New York lawyers to find solutions to a problem that has emerged on one of my cases.  Lee Michaels might call any of us at any time of day or night seeking help deciding on a strategic move he is considering making on one of his cases.

So although Best Lawyers rates each lawyer separately, what they really can’t see or feel is how this office works as a team.  We believe that of all the personal injury law firms in the Syracuse area, we have the best “team”, not just because our individual lawyers are outstanding, but because the formula we use to work together creates a powerful “synergy” that is the best in the area.

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