Law Office Of Michael G. O’Neill, The Types of Cases We Handle

Whatever it is that you do, you should be inspired.

And inspire others.

We don’t do anything that we don’t believe in.

Nobody works in my office who does not believe in what we do.

Handle every case like it’s our only case.

Lawyers like to brag about the big cases they handle. It makes them feel important. Big case = important case. Lawyer handling big case = important lawyer. Everyone likes to feel important. I get that. There’s an assumption that if a lawyer has a big case he or she must be a good lawyer. Not always true, but that’s a different story altogether.

I want to brag about a small case that I handled. My client was a hard working immigrant from Kenya working in the security department of a large chain discount department store. In addition to his full time job, he was going to college at night, and he and his wife were working very hard to make a better life for themselves and their young child. His complaint was that he kept getting passed over for a promotion, and he had reason to believe that his race was the reason.

The promotion in question was very modest and would have increased my client’s pay by little more than a dollar an hour. But to him and his family, it would have made a big difference in their tight budget. I took his case and filed a lawsuit on his behalf. After a while we managed to work out a settlement to my client’s satisfaction.

It was a small case and a small settlement, but I will never forget how grateful my client was. He told me how much it had meant to him that I believed in him and took his case and fought for him. He didn’t talk about the money at all, which was certainly modest enough, but just the fact that I had cared when nobody else did, and how he was able to get some measure of justice against this huge corporation.

Even though this was almost 15 years ago, I think about this client often. There are times when I have to tell a client that his or her case might be too small to justify a lawsuit. But I never, for a minute, think that I am too important to take that or any other meritorious case. I know that the real injury caused by discrimination is not to the bank account but to the human soul, and that injury doesn’t feel any different in a big case or a small case.

I would be an idiot to pretend that I don’t like or want big cases. Of course I do. But sometimes it’s the small cases that really move me and inspire me to go that extra distance for a client.