1. What is Workers Compensation Law?
Workers compensation law deals with administrative law offering employees an alternative to tort law so that they may recover for injuries suffered in the course of employment. Cases are held before Administrative Law Judges and may be subsequently appealed to the state appellate system. As workers compensation cases deal with facts concerning injuries and their impact on the clients ability to perform certain tasks, lawyers are expected to be familiar with aspects of personal injury law and medicine.
Students interested in workers compensation law may want to consider the effect of recent reforms upon the market for lawyers in this area. Workers compensation lawyers generally fall into two different categories: lawyers representing injured workers and lawyers representing insurance companies. Those representing injured workers have been leaving this practice because of the lack of work from the recent changes in the law. However, work for lawyers representing insurance companies remains viable. Students should consider these trends in determining whether to pursue a career in this field.
2. Where is it practiced?
Lawyers representing injured workers in workers compensation cases are found in small and mid-sized firms. Such firms typically have labor or personal injury work with the tie-in for workers compensation work when the relevant facts arise. As to lawyers representing insurance companies, these lawyers are generally found in mid-sized and large firms and retained by insurance companies for representation of such companies before administrative and judicial hearings.
Workers compensation insurance companies may have lawyers working in-house who are responsible for providing counsel regarding claims and representing the companies before administrative and judicial hearings.
Some states,including California, have a State Compensation Insurance Fund responsible for providing workers compensation insurance to state employers. Lawyers working with such state agencies generally deal with claims involving complex legal issues and represent the agencies before administrative and judicial hearings.
3. What Courses and Academic Experiences would be helpful?
- Interviewing and Counseling
- Pretrial Litigation Techniques
- Trial Techniques
- Workers Rights Interviewing and Advising
4. What timeline should I be following?
There is no set timeline for taking the courses listed in the prior section and there is no particular sequence in which the courses should be taken. However, students should keep in mind the following suggestions. Although the listed substantive courses are helpful in providing a foundation to understanding workers compensation law, practicing attorneys have noted that this area of the law is highly specialized and the best way to learn more about it is through practice. Consequently, practitioners recommend that students place an emphasis on professional skill courses rather than substantive courses. Workers compensation lawyers perform significant amounts of trial and deposition work in the handling of their cases and courses such as Interviewing and Counseling, Pretrial Litigation Techniques and Trial Techniques are very helpful in developing the skills needed in this field.
It is recommended that students pursue opportunities concerning Workers compensation law, whether with firms, corporations or clinics, as most employers prefer candidates with actual experience. Students interested in firms and in-house work should research potential employers and meet with LCS to develop a job search strategy. In general, students are advised to target large law firms and corporations during the fall as these entities are more likely to have a set recruiting schedule and know their hiring needs. Consequently, students are advised to target smaller firms and corporations during the spring.
As to clinics, the Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center (KGACLC) provides a clinic dedicated to workers compensation and presents a great opportunity for students to get actual experience representing injured workers and to be exposed to direct client contact. Students typically participate in the KGACLC Workers Compensation Clinic during their second summer of law school after they have taken Civil Procedure and Evidence. However, these courses are not a prerequisite to enrollment in the Clinic and the Clinic is offered year-round.
Another way to attract the attention of employers is for students to write a paper on a workers compensation law issue. Students may want to consider submitting a paper for publication to the Santa Clara Law Review or any of the journals devoted to labor and employment-related issues.
5. What additional resources should I check out for further information?
Many professional organizations are available on Linkedin:
6. Which faculty members at SCU have worked in Workers Compensation Law?