I'm driving home from work, trying to bypass the Mercer Street mess (if you live in Seattle, you know what that is). I go south over the viaduct go through the stadium district up Edgar Martinez Way (if you are a Mariners fan you know who he is) come to a stop light. I'm waiting to get onto I-90. Settling into a zen-like state as part of traffic aggravation-avoidance strategies, when I almost swallow my gum. Ok, understand gum chewing is probably not a good thing do to when in search of Ooooohm. But I like popping bubbles.
Anyway, am in near zen-like state when a Metro bus rumbles by and on the side emblazoned in horrific larger than life glory is an ad for 1-800 dial a lawyer. I start gagging and manage to catch the gum before it sticks in my gullet. The last business I saw advertising on a bus was the plumber - Don't go Freakin' call Beacon - a catchy jingle I must admit. Give me the plumber any day.
Now I've been to many other states where lawyer advertising puts little ol' Washington to shame. Tacky billboards pollute the landscape usually along the freeways. Injured? see us. Accident? see us. We'll get you money for your injuries. On and on and on. There are some attorneys in WA who have sprung for the few billboards available. But the side of a bus? Does that mean cabs are next? Shudder! And don't get me started on t.v. attorney ads. They are an abomination, tacky, gross and I detest and hate them. Did I mention, that I don't like them...
Enter the internet. The new wild west. Attorneys are notorious for being way behind in terms of technology. And so roughly 95 percent of us are just going about our business while 5 percent are either dabbling in or hiring people to dabble in the internet. Of those 5 percent there is a small percentage who are determined to grow their practices essentially overnight through facebook, twitter, blogs, ads, websites, SEO and other internet media devices. And that small percentage is ruining it for us all. They are smearing our reputation. Who needs anti-lawyer ads during political campaigns when this small group of lawyers is doing so well to turn the public against us.
The worst offenders are the personal injury lawyers. My people! They grab tragic headlines and stick them on their websites to boost their google rankings. They feature important cases in a way that makes it seem like they are their own when they are not. They puff themselves up so far that they should really go float off into the sunset - if only... Other lawyers try to distance themselves. Those are PI lawyers, we're business lawyers they say. Um sorry. A lawyer is a lawyer and we are all being lumped together in one big pile of doo.
I'm all for freedom of speech. I believe that lawyers should be able to promote themselves. But what happened to the codes of conduct that say we should uphold the dignity of our profession. That we should adhere to the highest ethical standards.
Everytime I'm in trial picking a jury, rude comments are made about money grubbing lawyers. The jurors are prejudiced and biased against us in a terrible way. The ads on billboards, tv and yes buses represent public dis-service announcements. They hurt us, they hurt our clients, and they hurt our society.
I loved Thumper in the Bambi movie. And when I would say something mean usually to my sister Debbie, my mother would make me repeat Thumper's line time after time after time: If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything nice at all. But, I'm sorry. The bar associations are standing by watching the carnage done to our reputations, quivering in the shadow of the first amendment. So I'm saying it - loud and clear. Because I am entitled to say whatever I want. Too.