Florida’s Misguided Ban on Lawyer Testimonials
The Florida Bar Association believes that the typical lawyer is so much more savvy than the typical client that it has prohibited lawyers from using client testimonials in their advertising.
It is hard to think of a more misguided and unnecessary policy. Testimonials, like any form of communication, can be misleading. But they aren't inherently misleading. Nor are they inherently so persuasive that most clients will be overwhelmed by them. In today's media environment, children are exposed to thousands of commercials before they turn 18. And who among us hasn't seen countless testimonials? Do we automatically buy a prodcut or service just because it's supported by a testimonial? Of course not. Testimonials don't exude some magical force. They can, however, provide useful information if you are looking to hire a lawyer.
Fortunately, you may be able to review online reviews of Florida attorneys despite the ban on testimonials. Specifically, check out the online directory, www.avvo.com. In response to a lawsuit filed by Public Citizen, Florida has created an exception to its testimonial ban for online directories such as Avvo. Thus, you may be able to read online reviews of Florida lawyers. Avvo is a partiuclalry good source because it can include unsolicited testimonials. In other words, clients can write unfavorbale reviews of lawyers. In fact, some lawyers who have never heard of Avvo have received both positive and negative reviews.
As with all forms of advertising, don't lose perspective when you read Avvo reviews. It's just one part of the mix. This seems like obvious advice. Too bad that the authorities in Florida haven't figured out that some information is generally better than no information at all.
When Lawyers Claim To Win 98% Of The Time
I recently heard a law firm advertise that it had won 98% of its cases. The firm primarily handles personal injury cases and its advertising is aimed at members of the general public.
So how do you you evaluate this seemingly impressive success rate?
The conclusion I reached is slightly counter-intuitive—this firm likely handles lots of small-potatoes cases, which it may settle on the cheap.
The primary value in a personal injury case is the extent of the injury. Thus, a firm that "wins" 98 percent of the time clearly represents people who have been injured in some capacity.
But they are unlikley to represent many cases in which the injuries are severe or where the potential damages are measured in millions of dollars. These kinds of cases generally involve insurance cases, and the greater the potential liability the more it makes sense for the insurance company to invest in better, more experienced attorneys. Likewise, when millions of dollars are at stake, the defendant has a greater incentive to take a case to trial.
I am fairly confident that, in the context of a personal injury case, "winning" means that the law firm's client received some compensation. What's not disclosed and what matters more is how much.
You shouldn't be surprised that, for example, if you are injured in a car accident, you are likley to get some money. But unless you have a sense of whether this firm is liklely to get you more money than another firm, you don't know much. It's not cost-effective to take a case to trial if it can be settled for $10,000. Thus, even people who have bordelrine or weak cases tend to get a small payment.
You should therefore keep in mind that firms that advertise their "winning" percentage may have an incentive to avoid losing. Unfortunately for you, that may mean that they are inclined to push you to accept a lower-than-average settlement. That is a good way for them to continue "winning" cases, but that's not a good result for you. So you shouldn't read too much into overall percentage.
It's more important to know how firms have handled cases where the lost wages and injuries are similar to yours. That's the kind of experience you need to evaluate.
The Fancy Pen Fallacy
"Don't judge a book by its cover." You've probably heard this advice. but I've spoken to more than a dozen people who are involved in book publishing and all of them say that books are in fact judged by their covers.
The right cover can make an enormous deifference in a book's sales. You've probably also noticed how important it is to dress for success, and researchers have found that how you dress at an interview can impact your starting salary. In many aspects of life we have no choice but to make decisions based on appearance. Buying a book based on its cover doesn't have a huge downside. At worst, you waste some money and end up with a lousy book.
But choosing a lawyer based on his or her appearance can be a much more serious mistake. For a sizable percentage of lawyers, the ability to write persuasively is an impoprtant skill. Likewise, an increasing percentage of negotiations take place over the phone. There are, of course, lawyers for whom appearance is a crucial element of how they serve their clients. Most notably, the small percentage of lawyers who handle jury trials fall into this category. Juries are often relatively unsophisticated and they are swayed by what your lawyer looks and sound like.
It is only natural to judge lawyers by their appearance. Seeing someone in an expensive-looking suit does suggest that the person wearing the suit is successful. But don't read too much into this. Remember, when your lawyer pulls out a fancy pen during your initial meeting, how the pen looks is much less important than how well the lawyer writes with that pen.
Online Review: Lawyerratingz.com
There are a multitude of Web sites that review or purport to review attorneys. Some are sponsored by lawyers or are created on their behalf. Others appear to be oriented to protecting potential clients. For the layperson, it can be difficult to tell which is which. That's why we will review web sites and assess their strengths and weaknesses.
I stumbled across www.lawyerratingz.com a few weeks ago. I hadn't heard of this site before. It's part of a network of online ratings (or ratingz) services that provide information about teachers, doctors, restaurants, and even radio programs.
The site solicits comments from members of the public and asks them to rank lawyers on a scale of one to five. There are about a million lawyers in the U.S. The site's homepage indicates that approximately 13,000 lawyers had been reviewed. This is a bit more than one percent of the total. Most of the lawyers who are listed have one review. Moreover, some of the reveiews are just numerical; someone clicked on a circle, but no written information is provided. There doesn't appear to be any quality control over who provides the reviews. The good reviews could be planted by the lawyers being reviewed and the bad reviews could be sheer fabrications. It's even hard to tell whether the reviews are written by the clients themselves. For example, some of the reviews that appear for Tom Messereau, the criminal defense lawyer who represented Michael Jackson, appear to be written by people who saw Mr. Messerau's opening or closing statements on TV.
Overall, this site feels more like an online bulletin board than a detailed analysis of lawyers.
So what should you do if the lawyer you are working with is reviewed on this site? The answer is simple—ask them about both and favorbale negative reviews, and give them an opportunity to respond. Ask them about the cases that underlie the reviews. At most, use lawyerratinz.com as a small-very small-part of your process of hiring a lawyer.
Posted by Gideon on 09/07 at 11:59 AM
Categories: Marketing By Lawyers
Lawyers.com TV Commercial
Last night, I was in Maryland and was watching MSNBC when an interesting lawyers.com commercial was broadcast. It was interesting on several fronts. First, I had never seen the commercial in my home state of California. Second, and more importantly, the commercial was an especially clumsy effort to convince potential clients to find a lawyer.
Lawyers.com is a service that has the best interests of lawyers in mind; it is created for - and paid for - by lawyers. In fact, lawyers.com is one of the largest providers of template and customized websites for the legal community. My strong sense is that this is a significant revenue stream for them. As with many forms of hard copy and online advertising, there is no necessary correlation between good lawyers and the lawyers who are prominently featured. Just as buying a large yellow page advertisement doesn't make one a good lawyer, neither does showing up prominently on a Web site like lawyers.com. Often times, attorneys who pay more receive the best placements on the site.
Lawyers.com has one overriding thing going for it-a good and memorable Web site name. But that is not remotely enough to make it a reliable way to find your lawyer.
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