Advertising has nothing to do with whether a lawyer is good
It almost seems silly to ask this, but would you choose a brain surgeon simply because she had the most television advertisements and the most catchy marketing materials? I would hope not. The glitz might capture your attention, but wouldn’t you really want to know whether that doctor is qualified to operate on your brain? Has she performed the surgery before? How have her patients done in the past? What do her patients say about her? What do other doctors say about her? Aren’t these the kinds of serious questions you would ask before allowing someone to go poking around inside your skull?
Why, then, would you not ask similar questions when it comes to the serious decision to choose an attorney? Yet, it happens. Many folks assume that simply because someone has the money to put on an expensive advertising campaign, he or she must be a success. Not true.
First, most advertising tells you absolutely nothing of substance about the lawyer. You simply cannot put enough information into a 15-30 second soundbite for you to make a good decision about that lawyer’s qualifications.
Second, some advertising and marketing materials are downright misleading. You can find a great example in my weekly mail, where for the low, low price of $750 I can receive an award from the (insert the name of the publication here) as one of the “Greatest Lawyers on Earth.” That’s right, you can actually pay to have yourself recognized as great by a publisher or organization that, for obvious reasons, isn’t all that great.
Third, you have to be careful of the televsion-advertising “settlement factories.” These are places where lawyers don’t go to court to try cases. Instead, they simply package up cases and send them out to an insurance adjuster for quick settlement. While that sounds good in theory, the problem is that because insurance adjusters know that these lawyers don’t go to court to get their clients more money, they generally offer less. Sure, it is a quicker settlement, but at what cost to you?
My point is simply this: a catchy advertisement does not a great lawyer make. No more so than a law degree makes one qualified to handle serious personal injury and wrongful death cases.
So, what is one to do? Well, if you have a serious case ask serious questions like: How many of these cases have you handled? How long have you been practicing? What are your past results in cases like this one? Do you do any work for insurance companies? Are you involved in organizations that focus on improving results in these kinds of cases? And my personal favorite – when was the last time you tried a case to a jury and won?
Sure, I admit that there aren’t many jury trials anymore, and many lawyers don’t have the chance to try cases like they used to, but I think I can honestly say that every good plaintiff personal injury lawyer I know still tries cases in front of a jury – and wins.
These questions will help you figure out the answers to the most important things you need to know: (1) the lawyer’s past results (past results are not guarantees, but . . .); (2) whether the lawyer specializes in this kind of case; and (3) whether the lawyer is dedicated to maintaining the skills it takes to handle this type of case.
Then, armed with that information, information from friends, relatives, and possibly other lawyers, you can make a decision about whether a lawyer is good enough to handle your case.