Lawyers — especially personal injury attorneys — are often regarded with hesitation, contempt and/or disdain. Their reputation? Not always the best.
Maybe you find the commercials over the top. Perhaps there was an episode of your favorite TV show with a smarmy attorney who soured you on the field. Possibly the idea of someone making money off your pain and suffering leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
I admit: Before I started working as firm administrator at Luhrsen Goldberg, I made lawyer jokes, too. My legal experience primarily involved watching Law & Order and hearing copious law firm advertisements on local radio.
But now that I’ve been at Luhrsen Goldberg for more than two years, I have a new understanding of – and appreciation for — not only the attorneys at my firm but lawyers in general. The stigma they’re fighting, the rights they’re protecting, the standards they’re upholding – it’s A LOT.
Tomorrow is Love Your Lawyer Day, which seems like the perfect time to dissect some of the common skepticisms and misconceptions about personal injury lawyers.
Promises or expectations made – are they realistic?
The Florida Bar holds attorneys to very high standards that help protect consumers from being taken advantage of or receiving improper representation.
There are many variables to a personal injury claim — from the differences in insurance carriers to coverage to injuries and more. Thus, any attorney who promises a specific outcome or dollar amount is not only doing a disservice to the potential client but to the legal industry as a whole.
Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis. This means the lawyer’s fees for representing the client will be deducted from the final personal injury settlement or court judgment in the client’s case. The concept of attorneys milking their hourly fees holds no weight here. And if the client doesn’t get a favorable outcome (i.e. doesn’t get any money), then the lawyer collects no fees.
But aren’t all attorneys ambulance chasers?
Bottom line: Attorneys are not allowed to solicit clients. Bar rules prohibit the solicitation — face to face, by phone including via a cold call, or through a third party — of a client who is not a family member or with whom the lawyer does not have a prior professional relationship.
Attorneys may not send direct mail solicitations to prospective clients within 30 days of an accident. Even then that mailing must meet several conditions including stating where the attorney got the recipient’s name, be marked as an advertisement, and start by advising the recipient to ignore the letter if he or she has already retained another lawyer.
In fact, a lengthy handbook outlining what can and can’t be included in advertisement governs the world of attorney marketing. Before using any type of advertising that contains anything outside of presumptively valid content (i.e. the names of the lawyers, the firm name, contact information, areas of practice, bar memberships, etc.), attorneys must submit the ad to The Florida Bar’s Ethics and Advertising Committee, whether it be print, television, radio, etc., for review and approval.
Attorneys are not ruthless or heartless
Lawyers have been the punchline of jokes for ages. But in all seriousness, they’ve worked hard, studied for years and take a rigorous test to get their law license. And then they have to uphold high standards to keepthat license.
The attorneys at Luhrsen Goldberg, like so many other lawyers across the nation, are children, siblings, spouses and parents. They’ve juggled family and career. They’re in professional organizations and involved in the community.
Personal injury attorneys are not attacking an individual in their cases. (Nor are their clients.) The law isn’t about going after a person. It’s about working to get the maximum compensation possible from the insurance companies. These corporations have collected monthly or annual premiums for years and often refuse to pay or undervalue a claim.