15 Questions about Personal Injury Law in the TriCities,
Fox Valley and Chicagoland
We sat down with co-founder Josh Feagans of Feagans Law Group to ask him about the path he's been on, why he founded his firm, and why he's been so successful as a personal injury attorney in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. Read his story, below.
How would you describe your business in a sentence or two?
We're a relationship-driven injury law firm that takes a "concierge-level" approach to representing and truly serving our clients.
What do customers say they like about the way you do business?
Most firms are only concerned about the relationship that they have with the client. While that relationship is also our focus — it’s really everything that we’re about — we also have spent the time, effort and resources to build relationships throughout the community with doctors, medical facilities, accountants, estate planners, eldercare consultants and more. There are so many different types of professionals that our clients might need — we have them at our fingertips for them, and also to help us as we put each case together to make it the most all-encompassing for their recovery — the strongest and most profitable case that it can be.
When you ask your clients what they say about this approach, how do they respond?
Our customers love it. When a client first comes to us and they’re experiencing maybe for the first time a real injury after an auto accident or a slip-and-fall, they’re frustrated, they are nervous, they are stressed. Simply about their pain — how they are going to deal with it and how they are going to start feeling better. They don’t want to have to worry about what chiropractor they are going to go to, where should they get their MRI done, what other medical options should they be exploring. When it’s all said and done, how is insurance going to be impacted. If I have a settlement, do I need to talk to an estate planner. They want to know the answers to those things, but when they are newly injured and in pain, they don’t have the time, resources or ability to take on all of it in the short term. We bring it all to them — that’s our ‘concierge-level service.
What have you learned over the years that helps make your firm so successful?
It’s our approachability. We’re a small firm, with only three attorneys, but we have a large staff and are reachable at all hours of the day. My wife is my partner and she’s taking phone calls at all hours of the night, she’s responding to text messages early in the morning. We wake up to calls and emails and we respond to those at 5 and 6 in the morning. All of our clients have our cell phones — they have for the last 10 years. So what makes us initially different and what allows us to stand apart is that when we take your case, you’re not just calling a call center or an answering service and getting forwarded to a mailbox, you’re reaching out to us via cell so that we can help you directly.
What else would you say differentiates Feagans Law Group from your competition?
There are a lot of ways that we are different from the typical law firm in Kane County or the Fox Valley area. But one thing that stands out is that we are truly a family business. My wife and I started the firm, we work it day in and day out, and we’re constantly talking to one another about this case or that case, this situation or that. The level of oversight and thoughtfulness this brings when you’re constantly talking about scenarios that can help your clients is far, far above the typical that one might see for a group of lawyers who see each other maybe 6 or 7 hours a day at most.
We heard you were voted a Daily Herald Reader’s Choice "Best of the Best" pick this year for both "Law Firm" and "Lawyer" -- why do you think that is?
In addition to really connecting with our clients, we have made it our purpose to connect with the community. It’s those relationships I mentioned. So the benefit there is that when someone asks, “Who’s the best attorney,” or “Who should I talk to about this legal situation” — we not only have thousands of clients that are handing out our name, we have thousands of connections throughout the community that are saying, ‘Call Josh, call Katie.’”
What’s the hottest trend in your industry?
I think there are two trends, really. One is still an unknown, and that’s AI. AI can be useful in the practice of law, but how it can be used to benefit an injury client is still yet to be determined. Certainly insurance companies are using AI to evaluate cases, to evaluate risk, all those types of things — and they’ve used computer algorithms for years to do that. From the plaintiff’s side, trying to understand the options that exist to further streamline our practice — whether it might be accumulating and summarizing medical records, evaluating medical bills, identifying gaps in the records or things of that nature — that’s where we’re headed. We’ve even seen some AI companies offering to draft our letters or communications to insurance companies and that type of thing. I think we’ll avoid that for as long as possible, because part of what allows us to negotiate and do the best we can for our clients is, believe it or not, connecting with our opponents and trying to understand how we can make their job easier and still get what we want at the same time.
The second trend, if you will, is the expansion of the consumer-based injury firm into our area. And we’ve seen that over the last decade or so — the Lerner & Rowes and the others. They’re not from here, they’re not even from Illinois. And they’re coming in and trying to tell consumers that they can do a better job than the local attorney can. But they don’t know who the judges are, they don’t know who the other attorneys are, they don’t know anything about the doctors in our area. You will call in, get a call center typically in some other country — and you do that because you may have been impressed by the fancy commercials or big billboards. With our firm, since we have started practicing law, we’ve focused on local business, with referrals coming from the community, from practitioners and other attorneys — and we’ll continue to do so. But the rub is that we get a lot of calls from potential clients who are very unhappy with the services they’ve received from these large, national, consumer injury firms. I don’t think that’s going to stop, I think it’s going to get worse as the advertising for those big firms continues to become more prevalent.
When you get those calls, are you able to help those people further?
We are. And it’s a triage approach really, because those attorneys have not really taken the time to make sure their clients have gotten the appropriate medical treatment, have documented their work restrictions properly, or have even a basic understanding of what the claim process is versus the lawsuit process. Shockingly, many of those initial points of contact for these large firms — as soon as they sign up the client — will ask them to immediately go on the Internet and give them a 5-star Google review or some sort of positive comment on their Facebook page before they’ve even done one minute of legal work for them. So obviously when they call us, they’re pretty upset. And they’re shocked to learn that there is a lot more to building a case than just signing up with an attorney and coming back in six months when their treatment’s done.
Is it also true that those large firms have these prospective clients interface with junior attorneys who aren’t as experienced?
It’s not only junior attorneys. The thing is, those large consumer law firms are hunting for the big whale. The big catastrophic injury that’s going to pay them millions and millions of dollars. So when they get the typical auto injury case — which is no less significant to the individual who experiences it, but that might just start with chiropractic treatment, or maybe a trip to the ER or physical therapy — those law firms will sign them up, but won’t do anything to help them. In the end, they’ll give them to a junior associate, or worse — they’ll send them to another attorney that they’re going to split their fee with, and make it look like that attorney is part of their firm when they are not.
Does your company donate time or money to any philanthropic causes, and/or what other community involvement does your business participate in?
When I first came out to the Fox Valley in 2013, I made it a point of emphasis to get involved in the community. Again, it’s about building relationships. In my opinion, lawyers also have a professional obligation to give back. At least that’s my philosophy. Not just in the legal sense, but in the community. So we have been intimately involved in a number of organizations, such as Casa Kane County and the St. Charles Area Chamber of Commerce. My wife and I are both board members at the Kane County Bar Association. And my wife is heavily involved in the Brookfield Zoo Women’s Board — just to name a few. I’ve been involved with almost every youth league imaginable. Currently one of my wife’s biggest passions is helping refugees through a 501(c)3 in Geneva called Radical Love. We have made it our mission to get involved locally and, as a firm, we’re all very excited about the good we’re doing in the community and beyond. We take our involvement in these causes very seriously.
What do you do to make your business a good place to work for your employees?
We’re a family business. We have a larger staff than most firms around here, but in the general sense we’re still small — there’s eight of us, including my wife and me. So it’s the little things. We go out of our way to ensure that breakfast is brought in regularly. We take our employees out to lunch to talk with them about how work and life is going, things like that. We typically have team-building outings in the winter and summer at a resort or some kind of vacation destination. And we’re all excited about the brand-new office we’ve just opened in Geneva, where we went out of our way to create an environment that everyone here would enjoy working in. We try to build a culture that we all like, one that ensures a good work-life balance for us all, not just the partners.
What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?
You know, even though my wife and I are both dedicated to helping injury victims, we actually started on the other side of the coin. When we were younger, as attorneys, we worked in Chicago for insurance defense firms, and we saw both the good and the bad that environment had to offer. We made a real conscious decision some years later to get on the other side of that to do more good for people — to try to champion their rights and fix what that broken system causes.
So you saw the problems on the other side — was that a sort of motivation for you, and maybe part of your drive to want to do better for those who were being let down by the insurance companies?
Yes. So there are two problems in the legal world of personal injury claims. The first is that insurance companies don’t really exist to benefit their insureds or the person who is injured. It’s a business, and they’re in it to make money. But they’re supposed to be looking out for the people who are buying the policies, and the people that their customers have possibly hurt through their actions. What we saw is that this wasn’t happening. We asked ourselves, “Why wasn’t it happening?” And the answer is that insurance company employees are motivated by a variety of different things, and they’re not given the information that is necessary for them to fix the problem. Whether it was from the plaintiff’s attorney, who didn’t understand how to resolve a case, or the defense attorney that the insurance company hired, who was more interested in making money him or herself than in resolving the case for the insured or, for that matter, the person that was hurt — the system was just broken. So after seeing that system in action, we knew we could do this differently. When we go into a case, we don’t approach it like a lawsuit — at least not initially. We look at it as a simple claim — we’re going to try to negotiate that claim, we’re going to build it up for our client, and if for some reason we can’t connect with the insurance company and figure out a way to fairly value it — then we turn it into a lawsuit. But even when we do that, we don’t approach it as a dogfight — we start out with a cordial, professional relationship trying to engage the defense attorney to try to understand why were they brought on, what are they trying to look for, what can we do to make them understand the value of our case. Only when those attorneys prove to unprofessional, or show that all they want to do is fight so that they can bill and make their own money, do we get aggressive.
What do you and your wife do in your free time?
We have a young family, and enjoy spending time with our kids’ various activities, as well as taking time off to travel or just go out as a family when we can. And my wife and I both have our own ways of blowing off steam. We’re often busy with work, and it can get intense, so it’s important to take that time for ourselves to decompress and reset.
What should people do if they've been injured, or have a question about a personal injury matter?
They can e-mail us at the link on this page, or give us a call at the phone number shown, as well. Once we have connected with them initially, they will have more options to reach us.
Thank you for your time today.
It's been my pleasure.
-Josh Feagans, Principal
Feagans Law Group, PC