Meet Bill Smith, South Carolina workers’ comp and personal injury lawyer
Some of my fondest childhood memories are from riding with my dad in the fuel oil truck he drove when I was growing up in Gaffney, South Carolina. I had one favorite customer on my dad’s delivery route—a lawyer who had an office filled with books.
In those days, a delivery driver would actually go to a customer’s home and meet them to deliver the bill, which is how I learned that this attorney was the nicest gentleman and had so many books. I remember being impressed and awed by him, and I knew then—at 5 years old—that being a lawyer was what I wanted to do when I grew up.
Later, I developed my desire to help people. I was especially interested in representing people who were from working-class backgrounds like my own, and that drove me to pursue a legal career.
What being a lawyer means to Bill—and how he got here
One of my law school professors once said, “A person’s character is judged by the way they treat people over whom they have power.”
I apply this to several aspects of my life—from my family, to work, to judicial decisions, and as a member of my community.
I had the honor and privilege of addressing many of the lawyers whom I admire most when I was the president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group (WILG). The year I spent serving these lawyers, their clients and injured workers nationwide was extremely meaningful and rewarding to me and was a highlight of my career.
An undocumented Mexican worker suffered a horrendous injury in South Carolina. He received emergency treatment and had surgery. When he was ready to be discharged, his employer picked him up from the hospital, drove him to the Texas border, and dumped him there to be deported.
I was called in by a Texas lawyer to proceed in South Carolina with a legal claim. However, I couldn’t get the client back into the country in order to testify. I traveled to Texas to take his deposition in a conference room at a guardhouse on the bridge over the Rio Grande.
Working together with his Texas lawyer, I obtained compensation for this very deserving claimant.
Establishing an attorney-client relationship
I ask my clients to tell me the truth. Plain and simple.
I don’t want you to exaggerate or minimize your problems. Tell them to me as they are because you win cases by being honest and sincere.
Experience and reputation are the 2 most important objective factors in selecting a lawyer. There are subjective factors, too, like your own comfort level and trust of the attorney. You’re going to be working with this person for a year or 2, and you need to be sure you fit well together.
Do you think the lawyer will be responsive to your calls? Answer your questions? Don’t hesitate to ask questions when you have your 1st meeting, and judge based on whether they answer in a way that feels right to you. You’re hiring a lawyer to be your advocate, and they should take that role seriously.
When you contact us for the first time, be ready to share the good, the bad and the ugly. The more honest you are about your situation, the better equipped I am to provide a thorough evaluation. Bring as much documentation as you have.
Often, clients provide me with piecemeal information, which makes it more difficult for me to evaluate the potential for a case and the likelihood of its success. If I get the sense that a prospective client is withholding information that could be important, I am less likely to be willing to represent them.
Why Bill loves his job (and what he wishes was different)
The best part is the trial. A friend once compared trials to the emotions you feel when playing high school sports, and I agree. You have the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Thankfully, we don’t have a lot of defeat, but the emotions can be pretty raw.
The worst part of my job is simply playing “beat the clock” all the time. No matter how busy I am today, I always need to be prepared for tomorrow. Sometimes, that means working nights or weekends and missing time with my family.
Thanks to the insurance industry, there’s a strong myth out there about frivolous cases. The industry has people believing that a personal injury lawyer will take any case, and that’s absolutely untrue.
We work on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid if we win. I’m not about to take on a frivolous case that would waste my own time and money, only to lose and not get paid. If I take on your case, it’s because I believe we have a solid chance of winning.
Bill’s role in his clients’ lives
I represent my clients in order for them to receive the medical care and compensation to which they are entitled.
I see my role as being an educator and advocate. From the very 1st meeting, I let my client know what they’re entitled to receive and what they can expect from the litigation process. They need to understand the range of possibilities, which could include both favorable and unfavorable outcomes. They can then assess their own risk tolerance to make the best decision for themselves and their family.
Thoughts about the legal profession
The legal profession is adversarial by nature. Of course, I knew this, but I hadn’t really thought about the fact that you fight like cats and dogs with the friends you make along the way. I’ve formed great friendships in the legal community, but then we fight all day for our clients.
The benefit at home is that I never fight with my wife… She never loses an argument because I’m so done fighting at the end of the day!
The personal side: collecting cars and landscaping
I love working around my yard, traveling and playing golf. I collect old Toyota Land Cruisers; right now, I am playing with a 1966 and a 1978, and I’m always looking for others.I think if I didn’t practice law, I’d be a landscape architect or run a landscape business.
I love spending time at Five Points and the University of South Carolina campus. I live not too far from there, and I love the vibrancy of the students scurrying around. It's also a very pretty area.
If I could be any superhero, I'd have to choose Superman—because who doesn't want to fly?