There's a common myth among attorneys that the only way to attract "big" cases (such as multi-million-dollar medical malpractice and personal injury lawsuits) is by impressing clients with their performance on "little" cases (say, fixing a parking ticket or pleading down a speeding violation).
This may seem like a logical premise, but it's also wrong. By letting yourself get bogged down with minor cases, the fact is that you unnecessarily limit your prospects.
Why Don't "Little Cases" Lead to "Big Cases"?
Let's look at this proposition logically. If you're satisfied with the way your lawyer handles traffic violations, in your mind, he'll be an excellent traffic-violation lawyer—but would you necessarily want to use his services if you trip and fall while shopping at a big-box retailer? Even if personal injury is a substantial part of his practice, you won't necessarily choose him to handle the case. It's a big potential payout, and you need a "big" lawyer.
It's also an unfortunate fact that if you handle a small case well for any given client, he may not even remember your name two or three years down the road, when he has a meaty tort that he can potentially throw your way. If you have undergone open-heart surgery, you will probably remember the name of your doctor years or even decades later—but that won't necessarily be the case if you had to have a boil lanced, no matter how competent and reassuring the physician was.
No matter how faithfully you represent a long-standing client in his minor cases, that's no guarantee that he will reward your loyalty, competence, and efficiency by letting you handle that once-in-a-lifetime, headline-generating lawsuit. A good analogy would be the small-time rock star who is treated like royalty by his tireless manager, and then promptly signs on with a big Hollywood talent agency when he hits the big time.
By Refusing the Small Cases, You'll Leave More Room for the Big Ones
If you're a recently minted law school graduate, you may have no choice but to establish a track record by taking on—and, we hope, by winning—small-time cases. But if you have a few years of experience under your belt, the best thing you can do is to learn to say "no" to minor cases, and impress upon your prospective clients that you have better, more interesting, and more lucrative lawsuits filling your schedule.