How Much Experience Do You Have? Are You An Expert?

A while ago I was talking to a potential client and he asked me how much experience do I have? My response was, I have handled a number of cases similar to his case, but I have not handled a case under the exact statute under which he was being sued. I explained that the civil litigation process is the same and the difference in his matter has to do with the specific things the other party had to prove in order to be successful.

Yesterday, a friend of mine went wild because of another lawyer’s post in a Facebook group. The lawyer constantly  posts about how great he is and how much experience he has. This post was exceptionally grandiose. I could see why my friend took offense to the post. The lawyer told people that he is an expert in civil rights claims and how he is one of the best known civil rights lawyer in a pretty large metropolitan area. We spent a couple of minutes looking into the guy’s background. He has been a lawyer for 5-years. Really! How many civil rights cases could the guy have handled in 5 years? I handle civil rights matter and from the initial encounter to resolution it can take anywhere between two and four years.

Inexperienced to Experienced ?

This brings up the question about experience. When does somebody cross over from being inexperienced to experienced?

Webster’s defines experience as:

a practical knowledge, skill, or practice derived from direct observation of or participation in events or in a particular activity.

I am blessed. I’ve been a professional helping people for over 30-years. As a chiropractic physician since 1986,  folks put their healthcare in my hands and trusted that I would be able help alleviate their health issue.

As an Anglican Priest since 1991, folks have relied on me to assist them with their joys and heartbreaks in life.

As a lawyer since 1999, folks have put their trust in me to assist them with their legal hurdles.

So, how much experience do I have?

  • I have treated hundreds if not thousands of patients with healthcare problems?
  • I have looked patients in the eyes and explained that their tests showed life threatening conditions?
  • I have performed many more funerals than baptisms and marriages.
  • I have sat with parents in hospitals where their children were dying and I have sat with children in the same hospital went their parents were dying.
  • I have given over a thousand homilies.
  • Testified as an expert witness.
  • Lectured to hundreds if not thousands of healthcare providers on matters where law intersects with healthcare.
  • Represented hundreds of clients in legal matters.
  • Defended folks accused of substantially contributing to another person’s death.
  • Brought claims against folks who have substantially contributed to another person’s death.
  • Defended folks who allegedly caused the death of another person.
  • Spent hundreds of hours in trial.
  • Been in hundreds of depositions.
  • Handled cases in State and/or Federal Courts in Florida, Illinois, Indiana and  Colorado.
  • Have the designation to call myself a “specialist” in civil trial law.
  • Recovered millions of dollars  for my clients in legal matters.

The truth is that experience is in the eyes of the beholder. In any profession, experience takes time and effort.

John Keats reminds us:

Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.

This is why experience takes time.

I told my friend that I felt pity for the lawyer that runs around telling everybody to look because he is great. When a person is in school receiving a professional degree, they are seeking a basic level of skill and proficiency. Nothing is a substitute for learning and refining one’s skills throughout their lifetime.