I can’t begin to say what I truly think of this article. Clap Clap Clap. Happy Dance. Yay.
The practice of law is a noble profession. Getting clients through foul means is crap.
Excerpt from Cook County.com article :
A Chicago personal injury lawyer specializing in litigation involving motor vehicle accidents will need to answer allegations he violated federal privacy laws in allegedly using personal information on police traffic accident reports to solicit potential new clients, after a federal judge declined to dismiss a class action lawsuit against him over the alleged business practices. Earlier this year, Antonio and Karen Pavone sued the Law Offices of Anthony Mancini, of Chicago, alleging attorney Mancini and his firm had violated the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act.
The case centers on a letter the Pavones alleged they received from Mancini about a week after they were involved in a traffic accident in Schaumburg on Jan. 15, 2015. The letter, which asked them to hire Mancini to represent them in any litigation or claims surrounding the accident, allegedly included an unredacted copy of the traffic crash report prepared by investigating police officers. That report included their names and personal information, as well as that of their minor son.
The Pavones said the letter, and in particular the report with the personal information, left them “shocked and dismayed, very concerned their personal information and that of their child had been transmitted to someone they did not know and used to solicit them for legal representation.”
Photo: me doing happy dance last weekend during Sol’s softball match.
Dear injured (or dead) person – hire me: The shame of being in a profession, where lawyers directly solicit clients.
Based upon a true story:
Last week, my wife of 35 years was driving to the store and was hit by another car. The police came to my house to take me to the hospital to see her. She’s been there ever since. We don’t think she will make it.
Each day I drive or am driven to the hospital by our children. I stay there as long as I can. I just had surgery myself. So I need to come home to try to rest in between rushing back to be with her.
I have never felt so scared, alone, vulnerable and incredibly sad. My grief and fear for her is overwhelming.
I manage to walk with a cane out to the mailbox. There’s a letter from a law firm. I don’t know them. It is addressed to my wife. I open it. They want to represent her. The letter comes with forms and a retainer agreement, all neatly organized in a glossy folder. I close it, slightly stunned. How do they know what has happened to my darling.
I walk back to the house. Sit in my chair and gaze at the packet. I don’t know what to make of it. I can hardly face what is happening to my wife. I don’t want to be thinking of lawyers. How did they find out. How did they find us. I feel like my wounds are open for the world to see. I need to cry in peace. Not in front of my wife. Not in front of our children. Not in front of a lawyer I don’t know. I want to cry alone.
The next day I go back to the hospital. When I return home, there is another piece of mail from the law firm. This time it is a certificate for a free accident report. I don’t want to see a report. I don’t want to think of lawyers. I want to think of my wife.
A few more days pass. My hope is dwindling that the love of my life will survive this collision. The law firm keeps sending me more materials. Even a CD rom. I am growing angry and upset. I didn’t respond to the first letter, or the second, or the third or the fourth why do they keep sending me more letters.
For over a decade the American Association for Justice has maintained a code of conduct for members. The code provides:
- No AAJ member shall personally, or through a representative, contact any party, or an aggrieved survivor, in an attempt to solicit a potential client when there has been no request for such contact from the injured party, an aggrieved survivor, or a relative of either, or the injured parties’ union representative.
- No AAJ member shall go to the scene of an event which caused injury unless requested to do so by an interested party, an aggrieved survivor, a relative of either, or by an attorney representing an injured party or survivor.
- No AAJ member shall initiate a television appearance or initiate a comment to any news media concerning an event causing injury within 10 days of the event unless the member forgoes any financial return from the compensation of those injured or killed, provided , however, that an individual designated by a bar association may initiate such media contact to communicate such position.
- No AAJ member shall personally, or through an associate attorney, file a complaint with a specific addendum amount unless required by local rules of court. if such amount is stated, it shall be based upon good faith evaluation of facts which the member can demonstrate.
- No AAJ member shall personally, or through a representative, make representations of trial experience or past results of litigation either of which is in any way false or misleading.
- No AAJ member shall personally, or through a representative, initiate personal contact with a potential client (who is not a client, former client, relative or close personal friend of the attorney) for the purpose of advising that individual of the possibility of an unrecognized legal claim for damages unless the member forgoes any financial interest in the compensation of the injured party.
- No AAJ member shall file or maintain a frivolous suit, issue, or position. However, no AAJ member should refrain from urging or arguing any suit, issue, or position that he believes in good faith to have merit.
- The AAJ Board of Governors has condemned attorneys or legal clinics who advertise for clients in personal injury cases and who have no intention of handling the cases themselves, but do so for the sole purpose of brokering the case to other attorneys. Any AAJ member who enters a contract of representation on behalf of a claimant shall, at the time of retention, fully advise the client, in writing, of all relationships with other attorneys who will be involved in the representation, the role each attorney shall play, and the proposed division of fees among them. the client shall also be promptly advised of all changes affecting the representation.
- No AAJ member shall knowingly accept a referral from a person, whether an AAJ member or not, who obtained the representation by conduct which this code prohibits.
In Washington, our state bar association rules do not prohibit direct attorney solicitation of clients. In Washington our trial lawyers association does not have a code of conduct similar to AAJ condemning such conduct.
In my opinion, direct solicitation of clients by lawyers – is gross. The few firms who do this – taint the public perception all of us who do not.
Photo: The five pieces of mail described above.
There are a lot of lawyers in America.
Lots and lots.
With the demise of the telphone book, most lawyers now have websites. Growing numbers use social media. A few pay for TV and radio ads. And thankfully only a few (grossly) advertise on buses, cabs and billboards.
In days gone by, lawyers belonged to Martindale Hubbell. A formal widely respected peer vetting system was involved where lawyers were rated as Average, Good, Very Good and ultimately Best. Actually this system is still in place but appears to be an endangered species.
Then came Super Lawyers. First as a regular magazine. Now a once a year publication devoted to promoting lawyers with an associated website. It is primarily a popularity contest. But to the extent that lawyers are voting for those whom they know and respect, it is not such a bad thing. Though some of the cronyism can be annoying.
Enter the new lawyer advertising venues. Avvo.com tops the list. Oftentimes, an Avvo profile ranks higher on Google than an attorney’s own website. Started by attorney Mark Britton, Avvo uses a rating system that includes objective factors like date of graduation, bar activities, bar troubles. The system is sometimes criticized for its ability to be gamed by those who put forth the effort and expense to fluff up their ranking. I’ve found lawyers who have only practiced a few years who have higher ranking numbers than well known excellent longstanding lawyers. Despite its flaws, Avvo does have a certain level of rigor that puts it at the head of the marketing pack. Plus it does not try to pretend that it is something that it isn’t.
Dialing down to my specific profession, personal injury lawyers are very concerned about attracting potential clients. One of the ways that an attorney can bolster their resume, is by the addition of memberships in socieities and awards. The public is impressed by those sorts of things. And sometimes they should be.
Any personal injury lawyer who is a real personal injury lawyer, will belong to a state or national trial lawyer organization. The national organization is AAJ (American Association for Justice formerly known as ATLA – Association of Trial Lawyers of America). The state organizations affiliated with AAJ are all trial lawyer associations though some of their names have been changed to match the ATLA to AAJ transition. In Washington State, we are the Washington State Association for Justice formerly known as Washington State Trial Lawyer Association. These are legitimate organizations made up of peers and run as bona fide nonprofits. The common mission is to advocate on behalf of injured people in the courts and legislatures. When these organizations give out awards, there are actual legitimate peer vetting processes in place. The awards are covetted, treasured and have meaning.
There are other trial organizations that are real. Such as the invitation only American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) which is a collection of experienced plaintiff and defense civil lawyers who have vowed to uphold the right to jury trial. And Public Justice which fights cases of broad public import and whose membership overlaps with AAJ.
And then there are trial attorney organizations that are really marketing organizations. You are invited to be a member. Pay a fee. And then get to put a sticker on your website saying that you are great, when in fact you did nothing other than pay the fee. These organizations make money catering to this hunger for accollades.
Today I received an invitation from AIOPIA. American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys. I went to their website to see who they were and found no evidence of humankind. Just the use of the royal “we”: “The American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys is an impartial third-party attorney rating service recognizing excellence of fellow practitioners in the field. We compile an exclusive list of the “10 Best” Attorneys for each State…”
I get the award if I fill out the form and pay them $275.00. Which leads me to Webster’s dictionary. Award: something (such as a prize) that is given to someone or something for being excellent or for doing something that is admired
Buying an award is an oxymoron.
Maybe AIOPIA is seeking to compete with Avvo. Maybe it is simply a Buy a Reputation organization. Don’t know which.
But this is what I do know. The only real plaintiff lawyer organizations are AAJ, the State TLAs, and Public Justice.
Photo: My 10 best nomination from AIOPIA before it hit the recycle bin.
Bloggers are told one of the best ways to capture audience attention is to use a cool photo.
Yeah. That’ll do it. After all a picture is worth a thousand words.
Here’s how it plays out. You are surfing the internet. Voila. You see a shiny brand new professionally done photo of a big truck driving down the road. That definitely captures your interest so you click on the photo which is part of a blog that is talking about dangerous trucks. And then by clicking on that blog you end up attached to a lawyer’s website. And now you can hire them. Or at least think about hiring them if in the future you get hit by a truck.
Or some variety of that.
Actually, it is amazing how many even good blogs use stock photos. There are blogs devoted to telling you were to find photos. istockphoto, stock.xchng, yotophoto, Flickr, wikipedia, etc to name a few.
Here’s the reality.
Top 10 reasons why generic fake photos suck.
1. They were taken by someone completely unrelated to you. This kinda defeats the purpose of a blog. Which is supposed to be personal.
2. You are passing someone else’s stuff off as your own. Plagerizing is plagerizing even if you pay for the privilege.
3. They don’t have anything to do with what you wrote. Or who you are as a human being. Sometimes you just can’t help yourself. Searching through those reams of free photos. You like one just because. And then try to blog around it.
4. They are distracting. We’re thinking – wow this person really writes well. Why are they using fake photos.
5. This (#4 above) leads us to assume that you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Because otherwise you would have your own photos.
6. They ruin your credibility. Kind of like inviting a new friend into your home, pulling out the photo albums. And…what – no real photos. No problem. I can tell you some fake stories to go along with those fake photos. How about Not.
7. They may be glossy. They may be pretty. They may even be cool. But they are no different than the fake photos inserted in empty picture frames. And we know it.
8. They detract from your brand. Imagine if in order to make a point, Warner Brothers, the producers of Man of Steel, asked Disney for permission to use an image of Johnny Depp’s Tonto wig. Would never happen.
9. They mute the collective richness, depth, and soul of a blog
10. You are what you post. If you post fake, generic photos. Then guess what.
Photo: My next door neighbor’s dog and Nala’s arch enemy, finds a cool seat during all the hedge trimming last weekend.
Back when I was an defense lawyer, this is how the firm got business. The partners golfed with, rubbed shoulders at clubs with, went golfing and to four star dinners with insurance and corporate key persons. The firm maintained these relationships and periodically was able to build a new relationship with yet another company. These relationships could last for decades.
Marketing is a kind of dirty word for plaintiff attorneys who represent “the little people.” We don’t want to do it (or at least most of us don’t want to). But we need to let the public know who we are. Otherwise, they’ll simply call the lawyers who bark the loudest. Through tv ads. Or billboards. Or even in some gross cases – by direct mail when there’s been a disaster.
Fly down to Vegas to go see what Lawyernomics has to say. Expect to be surrounded by rabid marketers. Instead, am rather pleasantly surprised. Because for every two super aggressive widget counters, there is someone who simply wants to figure out how to shine their light. Plus the speakers are really good.
Visit with Kevin and Colin O’Keefe – their company Lexblog.com houses this blog. Chat with Mark Britton and the folk from Aavo – lawyers ignore this consumer focused site at their own risk. Listen to Sam Glover of Lawyerist.com give my favorite talk of the conference. Since he reads it, here it is:
But wait. It’s not quite over. The woman in the front row gruffly warns people not to believe Sam. She doesn’t like the recommendation that a blog be separate from a law firm website. She charges: I did it your way. But after seeing hardly any result, I moved it back to my website and it zoomed up Google rankings.
Sam blinks and says: I don’t care.
Yeah. That’s the right response.
Because most lawyers who write blogs are doing it to get business. The focus is on moving up google, or getting clicks.
Not in writing something that people actually may want to read.
So why waste your breath.
Photo: Kevin O’Keefe and I at the conference.
Today a ghost writer offered to secretly write my blog.
Before deleting her spam, I took a peek at the links to the firms she writes for. Bet they’ll be happy to know they’ve been outed.
It is slimy to hire someone to do legal blogging without disclosing that the writer is: a) not a member of the firm and b) not a lawyer. Plus maintaining a blog simply for the sake of having a blog, is kinda lame.
Also, if you are such a great writer, don’t you think the salutation should at least include the name of the person you are soliciting. Here goes:
I came across your website today while I was looking for other legal bloggers, and noticed that you focus on personal injury. I also noticed that some of your blogs aren’t updated often. The blogs have great potential for client leads generation, and hiring a ghostwriter could be a cost-effective way of getting their marketing potential working for you again.
I would like to offer you my ghostwriting services to maintain your blog. Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Shabana Nather, and I am a professional law firm blogger. I currently ghostwrite a several blogs for law firms in Texas, California, New Jersey and Georgia. Posts are search engine optimized, and are crafted with a view to attracting potential clients who may be looking for attorneys to represent them.
Here are links to just a few of the blogs I ghostwrite:
Consumer Fraud Blog
Eagle Ford Shale Attorneys
Indiana Lawyer Blog
WGC Law Firm Blog
Here are links to samples of website copy.
Industrial Injury Attorney
Product Liability Lawyer
(I created content for all the practice area pages on these sites.)
Tacoma Bankruptcy Attorney
Several of these blogs rank highly for location-specific keywords, and have helped generate new client leads for these law firms.
If you would like to discuss ghostwriting services for your blog, or have questions for me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Law Firm Blogger and Attorney Website Content Writer
Note: The day after I posted the blog, Shabana emailed and called and asked me to remove the hyperlinks that were imbedded in her email and thus made it into this blog. I removed the hyperlinks. Not out of respect for the law firms. But due to her level of personal distress.
Once upon a time four young lawyers decided they hated practicing law. So they became comedians. Part of their gig involved creating a podcast. Which they needed content for.
One day one of the comedians, Matt Ritter, saw that The Velvet Hammer blog was the number one trial practice blog for the ABA. He thought that was neat. Called. And the rest is comedians at law podcast history.
What is nice about this format, is that it is totally random and interactive. Real time. No rehearsal. No script. No telepromters. Unlike heavily scripted and edited t.v. We go at it until time is out.
Here is the Episode: http://comediansatlaw.podomatic.com/entry/2013-02-10T21_40_13-08_00. Velvet Hammer starts halfway through.
This showed up in my email today. At first I hoped it was a bad joke. It wasn’t. This wins my award for Most Tacky & Gross Lawyer Advertising Scheme 2012.
Cristina asks if she can come along to the new client interview. It is her first time. We drive to the nursing home.
The woman is relieved to see us. Her family is with her.
On the one hand, am happy that can provide reassurance and help. There are so many fears and questions when one has been in the hospital/facility for over a month.
On the other, it is sad to see people who are hurt and scared. As the woman tells us her story, can see Cristina looking down trying not to cry. My eyes well up, but am able to keep tears from dripping down face. Not always able to do that though. Which is okay. There’s nothing wrong with letting a hurt person know that you hurt for them.
John has given me a packet that has a retainer agreement, intake form, and authorizations. Don’t pull them out of purse until about an hour has passed. Then this is what happens – don’t let the woman sign them. Even though she wants to.
Suppose it is because of disgusting “ambulance chaser” label that people put on personal injury lawyers. But especially when meeting someone in a hospital or nursing home. Don’t like the visual image of having them sign papers while the attorney hovers over their shoulder.
Instead, tell them to spend time with the documents. At least spend the night thinking it over and making sure everything feels right.
Is there a risk the person may talk to another lawyer and go with them. Sure there is. But then that means we were never meant to be together.
We stand and are getting ready to leave. One of the relatives asks for a business card. Our cards are quite nice. Double sided with a pretty logo. They are however, not in purse. Go through the motions of digging for them. But unlike the lawyers on t.v. do not have one to whip out. Two of the relatives are laughing as they give me their cards. Meanwhile, find a pen and write my phone number on the paperwork.
Suspect that many lawyers who read this blog will think am doing this all quite wrong and/or am quite bonkers. Perhaps.
But the next day, the woman calls and sends in her paperwork. And it feels good to know she chooses me because she really wants to. Not because I’ve pressured her even one tiny little bit.
Photo: Cristina many years ago.
If you or a loved one are injured (or worse). This is what won’t happen. My law firm will not come knocking uninvited on your door.
On May 13, an injured person filed a lawsuit against three law firms and their “runners” for trying to get him to sign up as their client.
Here’s what happened.
He was injured on April 25. On the 27 and 28 he received unsolicited phone calls and visits from people claiming to represent the three law firms trying to get him to become their client.
This conduct violated state law in Alabama. But the law is no different here in Washington. Lawyers can advertise because that is free speech. They can even send a crass letter to a victim/family after reading something in the news. But they can’t make phone calls or visits.
I’ve never heard of someone suing attorneys for this misconduct before. The victim in this case was actually a young attorney who was disgusted by unscrupulous and unethical behavior and decided to do something about it.
Attorneys who troll the internet looking for the most recent headlines so they rush to get a new client – well, they make me sick.