The following myths and truths are borrowed with permission from Attorney Ben Glass of Fairfax, Virginia, 22030, www.benglasslaw.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. M- All lawyers have the same training.
T- Not all lawyers have the same training. Warren Burger, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, once warned, “A lawyer is not qualified, simply by virtue of admission to the bar, to be an advocate in trial courts for matters of serious consequence.” Many lawyers continue their professional training throughout their careers, but for some, the last time they learned anything new about their craft was in law school.
2. M- The bar association determines whether a lawyer can advertise that he is a “divorce lawyer” or a “personal injury specialist.”
T- The bar association does not determine whether a lawyer can advertise that he is a “divorce lawyer” or a “personal injury specialist.” There are virtually no restrictions on the types of law for which a lawyer may advertise. Once an attorney graduates from law school, he or she is allowed to handle virtually any case.
3. M-All lawyers go to trial.
T- Not all lawyers go to trial; some who advertise for personal injury or medical malpractice cases have never gone to trial.
4. M-All lawyers have the same experience.
T- Not all lawyers have the same experience. This may seem obvious, but many people (and some lawyers) think “a lawyer is a lawyer is a lawyer.”
5. M-A lawyer who is good at DWI cases will be good at personal injury cases.
T- A lawyer who is good at DWI cases won’t necessarily be good at personal injury cases— while this may have been true in the “old days,” today the practice of both DWI and personal injury cases is highly specialized. The same goes for just about every other type of law.
6. M-All lawyers carry legal malpractice insurance.
T- Not all lawyers carry legal malpractice insurance. It is perfectly legal for a lawyer to not purchase malpractice insurance. Shockingly, they are not required to tell you who they are! You must ask for this information. Only a fool would hire an attorney who does not carry malpractice insurance.
7. M-If a lawyer advertises that he accepts certain types of cases, he actually has experience with those types of cases.
T- The fact that a lawyer advertises that he accepts certain types of cases does not necessarily mean that he actually has experience with those types of cases. Again, there are no strict rules against advertising for cases even if you just walked out of school. Not all lawyers who advertise on TV for malpractice cases, for example, have real experience handling a malpractice case. Sometimes a local lawyer’s advertising will actually be paid for by a big out-of-state law firm. (The local lawyer will then get a cut of the action when the case is over.)
8. M-A lawyer who advertises will actually be the lawyer handling your case.
T- A lawyer who advertises won’t necessarily be the lawyer handling your case. Some lawyers advertise for cases simply to refer them out to other lawyers. What do they expect to get for this? A big, fat referral fee.
9. M-A “lawyer referral service” is a good way to find the right lawyer for your case.
T- A “lawyer referral service” is not necessarily a good way to find the right lawyer for your case. Lawyers pay to be on these lists and no one checks to see whether the lawyer actually has experience in your legal matter.
10. M-Lawyers who advertise on TV must be super-successful, otherwise they couldn’t afford to pay for the ads.
T- Massive TV and radio advertising is not necessarily a sign of success. Some lawyers run a “volume practice,” hoping to make a little money off each case—usually by settling most, if not all, of the cases. Shockingly, in some offices paralegals handle virtually the entire case. The only time you see the lawyer may be when you are watching the TV ad.
11. M-Lawyers at “Internet Find-A-Lawyer” directory sites are carefully screened for qualifications.
T- Most Internet lawyer “directories” are nothing more than another advertising media. Lawyers are solicited daily to pay big bucks to have an “exclusive listing” as a “specialist” in a particular city. A valid credit card is sometimes their only “qualification.”
12. M-Choosing an attorney from the local “Best Lawyers of the City” guide is a good method of finding the right lawyer for your case.
T- The local magazine “best lawyers” listing may not include the best lawyers in the area. It might have only those lawyers who returned the forms and the “winners” might be ones who were able to convince their friends to vote. You need to know which lawyer rating programs are valid.
The answers to these myths and truths may vary depending upon the particular facts and circumstances of each scenario, but generally they are applicable to the lawyer advertising industry.
I encourage you to buy local products and hire local, reputable attorneys!
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