'People person' Lee finds his calling in personal injury
By AdvocateDaily.com Staff
Toronto personal injury lawyer Andrew M. Lee feels as though he was made for plaintiff-side personal injury work.
“I’m a people person,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com. “I always figured I wanted to be in some field where I could interact with others. I never saw myself as a person who would be buried in paperwork.
“I wanted to help people and champion their causes, which has led directly to what I’m doing now,” adds Lee, the founder and principal at Lee and Associates Personal Injury Lawyers.
Still, the road to Lee's dream job wasn’t entirely straight.
Unlike some of his classmates at Osgoode Hall Law School, “I didn’t have a father who was a lawyer or an uncle who was a judge.” Instead, he blazed his own trail to graduate in 1992, before joining a law firm known for its insurance defence work.
In more than a decade with the firm, during which he made partner, Lee felt the lure of the opposite side of the bar and began swapping his insurance company clients for injured individuals. Finally, in 2006, he decided to start his own firm, which is now devoted entirely to representing plaintiffs.
“It was a deliberate effort to build up my own client base, and start helping people instead of defending denied claims,” Lee says.
Still, he says his diversion to the defence side of the bar paid off.
“It gave me a great insight into how these companies operate, what mindset they bring to claims and their assessments. I learned a great deal that enables me to help people on this side of the fence,” Lee explains.
“The transition was quite straightforward because it’s the exact same type of claim, but you’re coming at it from the other side.”
He says the difference between his previous and current work is most obvious when he speaks with his clients.
“When you’re dealing with an institution, you tend to be working with very sophisticated individuals who are extremely well versed in the litigation process,” Lee says.
“Doing the type of work I do now, you’ve got to be able to connect with people from many different walks of life. You could be representing someone with a third-grade education or someone with two post-graduate degrees.”
People come to Lee with a variety of legal issues, including claims involving spinal cord injuries, slip and falls, dog bites, bicycle accidents and long-term disability, among others. However, he and the rest of his team, which includes five other lawyers and a number of support staff, bring the same attitude to each individual client.
“We take a very sympathetic and holistic approach. We show them we care and try to be at their level,” Lee says. “The focus is never just about the dollar value of a claim.
"We realize these people have had their lives turned upside down and there are a number of things they can’t deal with on their own. If there are treatment or employment issues, then we try to point them in the right direction,” he adds.
“Even though we are retained for the personal injury part, we do our best to be all-encompassing.”