Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Personal Injury

Hoffman’s practice rooted in passion for helping clients

It was an undergrad law class that sent Toronto personal injury lawyer Jennifer Hoffman down her chosen branch of the classic fork-in-the-road of ambitious students: medicine or law.

“I just loved it,” Hoffman, a partner with the Toronto firm Wolfe Lawyers, tells AdvocateDaily.com. “I loved the rules. I loved that it made sense. It was real-world problems with real-world people and real-world solutions.”

But first, she earned a master's degree in neuroscience before entering law school. That degree prepared her for a career in law in a number of ways, giving her a grounding in the anatomy and physiology of the sorts of brain injuries she now encounters on a daily basis in her practice.

And the scientific method isn’t so different from law, Hoffman says.

“Science is a very systematic way of training the brain. It’s evidentiary based and empirical,” she says. “It taught me the importance of looking at a case systematically. I almost take a scientific approach to build up my files and advocate for my clients.”

After law school at the University of Western Ontario, Hoffman — and everyone else — assumed she’d go into pharmaceutical law, but her passion told her otherwise.

“I always wanted to advocate for people, especially those that are under-represented and at a disadvantage," Hoffman says.  "Personal injury law made sense because I loved working with people who are concerned about going up against insurance companies, while working in a field of law that has a strong appreciation for science and medicine.”

Hoffman started her career working for Jack Fireman, a well-known Toronto personal injury litigator.  It was there that she realized she had chosen the correct field and she fell in love with the practice area.

She worked with the senior lawyer, who Hoffman and contemporaries describe as “one of the most brilliant litigators of our time,” for the first seven years of her career.

“I got to see this side of him that was very humane and passionate — not just about the law, but about the human side of what we do,” she says.

Hoffman learned a great deal from Fireman about values, too.

“Integrity is everything,” she says. “It is better to lose a buck than an inch of your integrity.”

He taught her to build a file from start to finish, analyze each layer, and use the right experts. Fireman also educated Hoffman in how to be forceful, when required, and encouraged her to develop her own advocacy style.

“I believe you attract more bees with honey. I don’t think the old-school, bully approach to law works anymore," she says. “I’m aggressive when I need to be. Jack taught me to push for every last dollar for my clients.”   

Hoffman also picked up Fireman’s approach to his practice, which was “anti-volume, pro-quality,” she says, noting that she has never run a volume practice, which has allowed her to be intimately familiar with every detail of her clients’ claims.

“With this caseload, I am able to provide clients with adequate time and resources to maximize their settlement," she says. "In fact, many lawyers, including other personal injury lawyers, often refer complex cases that require deeper analysis to me."

Hoffman’s practice includes a wide range of motor vehicle accidents, spanning cases involving chronic pain, fractures and catastrophic impairment. It also includes slip-and-fall cases, medical malpractice, bar and club assaults, product liability and boating accidents. Long-term disability has also been a growing area of her practice in recent years, she says.

Hoffman is particularly drawn to cases that involve catastrophic impairment and fractures.

“I have seen first-hand the impact these injuries have on victims and their families. I have also seen how the insurance companies treat people when they need access to their benefits most. I love being able to advocate for clients and get them the result they are entitled to,” she says.

The most satisfying part of the job is the look on a client’s face when their file is settled, she says.

“They know this chapter is closed, and they can move on with their lives.”

Hoffman recounts the first file she carried herself, representing a woman newly immigrated to Canada who had been seriously hurt in an accident. Her client cried at the settlement.

“She took off her ring and wanted to give it to me. I couldn’t accept, of course, but that stuck with me: this woman who had nothing, literally wanted to take the one valuable thing she owned and give it to me as thanks,” Hoffman says.

“I love helping people, especially those who are unfairly treated by the system."

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