In a very compelling blog post, “What’s it for?,” Seth Godin brings us face-to-face with the reality that profits are the main force behind most of our professional endeavors. Seth compares the (likely) original motivation behind Time Magazine- to deliver the best weekly newsmagazine- with current thinking, where the main goal is most likely to make as much money as possible. As Seth points out, profit used to enable the goal, now profits are the goal.

If we think about it, profit is important. Without it we can’t even maintain let alone improve our standard of living. Product manufacturers can’t improve their products, health care providers can’t improve on the delivery of health care and, yes, magazines can’t improve their content without profit. Regrettably, it does appear that offering the best quality and sincerest product is no longer the main driving force of today’s companies.

We do not have to dig too deeply into the popular social press to identify the one profession many see as the greediest – lawyers. Perhaps we can even narrow that further to personal injury lawyers with their “excessive” contingency fee awards. It is certainly true that lawyers, like everyone else, have to make a living and want to get ahead. It is also true that a great many lawyers earn incomes and maintain standards of living few could even dream of, let alone achieve.

I must admit that I too became a lawyer because I wanted to earn a good income and get ahead. However, I can honestly say that my primary goal in choosing this profession is the same today as it was in 1977, to find reward in helping people and being challenged by my work.

That brings us back to Seth’s reality facing question: what are we doing and why are we doing it? If the answer is merely to make a profit, you may earn a significant profit only to realize in the last analysis that you have experienced little, if any, satisfaction from your work. If the answer, on the other hand, is to provide a solution to problems big or small, to be the very best maker of quality widgets, or to heal and save lives, you must also expect your efforts to be profitable lest you be unable to achieve your purpose. Without the profit, you will never attain your goal, but if you follow your dreams, the profits should follow you.

Since I brought it up, I should talk a bit more about how personal injury lawyers are typically paid: the contingency fee. First, a contingency fee enables a person who has been injured a way to redress that injury. It is often called the poor man’s key to the courthouse. When one reads about a multimillion dollar jury verdict and the multimillion dollar contingency fee paid to the attorney, one often reacts with shock and, occasionally, outrage.

It is important to note that multimillion dollar jury verdicts make the news because they are rare. A multimillion dollar jury verdict is the result of years of hard work by a legal team (not just a single lawyer) and, I dare say without exception, the law firm pays all costs out of its own pocket to prepare for that case; the costs can exceed six figures in a case of this magnitude. The verdict, being years in the making, came about because a lawyer was willing to take the risk and, perhaps, forego other cases where payment was assured or could be realized much more quickly.

For every multimillion dollar verdict, there is at least one case that did not turn out as expected; where the legal efforts and the advanced costs resulted in no recovery. In fact, I would be willing to wager that if you compare the contingency fee to the bill for the defense attorney at the going hourly rate for a multimillion dollar case, the compensation of the two attorneys would be very close.

I decided to be a personal injury lawyer because I love the work I do; I am rewarded every time I’m able to help someone through a difficult time like being injured in a car accident. My name is Bob Clarke and I’m a Phoenix personal injury lawyer and my goal is to give you my very best.