Don’t You Hate Personal Injury Lawyer Advertising? We Do Too!!! It makes us MAD!!
Some tacky lawyers’ advertising campaigns are outrageous and David Band believes that is the cause of the unfortunate demise of law as a respected profession. These attorneys spend tens of thousands of dollars on cookie cutter generic commercials that are sold TV time across the country with many different attorneys, all with exactly the same slogans and with the identical “satisfied clients” in these tacky ads, which are carefully proven to get the attention of gullible prospects.
These visible PI lawyers with large TV advertising budgets (one in New Orleans spends some eight million dollars on advertising alone) only have impersonal mass production “mill” operations to use “adjusters” and paralegals to negotiate directly with the insurance companies instead of the lawyer. These techniques are downright unethical as ethical guidelines for lawyers require that only licensed lawyers are qualified to make direct contact with the courts, other lawyers and claims adjusters to negotiate claims. Further, these aren’t true Lawyers in the traditional sense of the word – they handle ONLY personal injury, and aren’t qualified to render an opinion on most tangential issues that often come along with a person, such as domestic relations, traffic, criminal, bankruptcy, business law, etc. And the personal injury matters they do handle are not given any kind of priority but rather take a back burner to the advertising budget. The attorney whose face is seen in the commercials NEVER goes into the courtroom, but rather some inexperienced lawyer in the office on a cut rate fixed salary based after one year on a straight percent of his collections will handle the case.
. Furthermore, to show perfectly healthy people (actors) gassing up their car, going on with their lives without any pain or obvious injuries whatever, with a pitch for how many hundreds of thousands of dollars the lawyer has gotten for them, is absolutely outrageous. Personal Injury isn’t a lottery. These advertisers are creating the false impression that you don’t need to have a genuine injury, with paid actors acting like clients who’ve just won the lottery. The small print says “dramatizations”, but anyone with a grain of sense should realize that this is not a fair picture of the real state of affairs for any legitimate plaintiff who settles a big case. If those clients had actually had such serious injuries to warrant such large awards, they would be in obvious pain, limping, and wouldn’t be quite so happy. In fact, they would have very much preferred that the accident never have happened at all.
The fact is those big advertisers do NOT get top dollar for the clients, won’t really fight for the clients on difficult cases, rarely take difficult cases, and are set up to get quick and not necessarily top dollar settlements, through the use of staff in those offices used to handling mostly very routine cases. Screeners carefully take the facts of each case and the client is politely advised that “It’s not the type of case that the attorney will accept” if the client received a traffic ticket, if there was no insurance, if the injuries were only minor or some soft tissue. David Band takes many cases the big mills won’t take and gets top dollar for them, even with difficulties to overcome.
It’s actually unethical for the “adjusters” in those lawyer’s offices to negotiate directly with the insurance company’s representatives since negotiation is an attorney function exclusively – but they go right ahead doing it. Many insurance companies are investigating improper contacts from persons other than the lawyer himself, but in the meantime, the big mills continue. And they’re squeezing out many small law firms.
The client with a legitimate claim should be on the lookout for promoters and hucksters – and the new breed of assembly line lawyers no longer in the style of “Perry Mason” or the great lawyers of our times. David Band, regularly in the court houses where personal injury cases are tried, can say categorically that all of these advertising attorneys rarely personally try a personal injury. It’s amazing, but you rarely see Morris Bart or Frank D’Amico in the court house at Civil District Court. Prospective clients need to understand that they are merely being lured to a mass claims processor that’s mostly good to grind money out of injured peoples’ misfortunes – and is not going to be sensitive to the client’s very personal needs. If the client even gets a chance to talk to the attorney, he will rarely be able to receive advice on other tangential legal issues out of the personal injury specialty, such as divorce, custody, general business transaction, criminal law, and other issues which often come up in the context of a personal injury claim.
The misleading adds demean the profession and embarrass legitimate law firms. In fact, because of this tacky advertising, the public at large is becoming very skeptical of lawyers in general, making large verdicts and the job of legitimate attorneys all the more difficult. The Supreme Court says advertising is free speech for lawyers available to all, but the profession should use a modicum of good taste to remain a “profession”. In any event, unethical contacts between “adjusters” or paralegals in these advertisers’ offices may well lead to disciplinary action. There are plenty of good informative lawyers’ adds on TV these days – just still a few too many that spoil the image of the profession for everybody else.
Further, the rules of ethical conduct for lawyers have recently been changed to require that attorneys may NOT offer cash advances to clients as an inducement to the employment of the attorney, may not charge excessive interest on any such loans, and must include a description of these new ethical requirements in the Retainer Contract.
Lawyer Advertising needs to focus on the good that lawyers can do, rather than the money aspects solely.