How personal lawyers took your TV | CNN Business

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Drive down any highway in America or turn on the TV for 10 minutes and you’re likely to see an ad for a personal injury attorney.

“Injured in a car accident? Injured at work? Wrong at the store? Call this attorney who will get compensation now,” is a common ad for a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney. A lawyer is often in the broadcast behind the desk or in the courtroom with a phone number that spells out a word or phrase for the viewer to dial on the screen.

There is a code in the advertising of lawyers and it was restricted for most of the 20th century until the Supreme Court in 1977 confirmed that it violated the protection of the First Amendment. The court said the restriction undermined access to legal services “especially for the poor and the unknown.”

The decision opened the door for lawyers to advertise. Lawsuits proliferated in the 1980s, spurred in part by claims filed by workers exposed to asbestos.

Spending on legal advertising on television reached $1.2 billion through November, according to data from Kantar.

Many personal injury attorneys advertise aggressively because of the competition and the unusual business model that many practices employ. Advertising also helps reach consumers who do not know personal injury attorneys, cannot rely on referrals, or are unaware of their rights. illegal.

“I advertise to show my business and hope to attract business,” said John Morgan, the founder of Morgan & Morgan, the largest personal injury law firm in the country.

Morgan appears on television and advertises himself with the tagline “For the People.” Morgan’s most successful ads, he said, are the ones that make people aware of rights they may not be aware of.

In personal injury cases, “the customer is usually one and you’re no longer dealing with an organization,” said Samuel Issacharoff, a professor at NYU Law who studies law. penalty. “The question is always how do you make connections between ordinary people who are injured and lawyers?”

Private attorneys have a lot of advertising, said Nora Freeman Engstrom, a professor at Stanford Law School who studies attorney advertising. Some lawyers advertise that they handle cases themselves. Other attorneys advertise and then refer the cases they find to a network of other attorneys and get a portion of the awards.

Then there are what Engstrom calls “settlement mills” — personal injury lawyers who settle a lot of cases but “are not focused on maximizing the value of each claim.” Lawyers now advertise trying to catch as many cases as they can.

Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, so they only get paid if they negotiate a settlement for a client or win. in a case in court. Less than 1% of all cases go to trial. Their fees are usually between 33% and 40% of the total amount given.

Contingent fee arrangements are the only way that most people can have access to toll courts.

“For a personal injury attorney, it’s really become an advertising and marketing game to get cases,” said Jason Abraham, vice president of Hupy & Abraham, a leading law firm. and many injuries in the Midwest. “In order to make money, if you are not in the advertising and marketing field you will never be an actor. It is impossible.”

The company uses actor William Shatner as a paid spokesperson in advertising. Using Shatner was a “game changer for us,” Abraham said, and “gave us instant credibility.” Advertising with Shatner helped the law firm enter new markets such as Iowa.

Personal injury companies often advertise on daytime TV as a “straight answer” tool to reach people who are in the hospital or at home recovering. a problem. “If someone is hospitalized, they will call at that time,” said Abraham.

In addition to ads for personal injury attorneys, consumers are often inundated with ads for big accidents, such as the ones currently flooding the airwaves looking for victims of alcoholic beverages at Camp Lejeune. According to Kantar, $206 million was spent on mass media advertising in November.

Companies that specialize in finding customers, usually bank hedge funds and legal-finance firms often finance advertising and refer claims to lawyers for a fee.

But critics say lawyers’ ads are being abused, and there are efforts to curb them.

“We are not saying that they cannot publish. It can never be misleading, deceptive or dishonest,” said Matt Webb, senior vice president for legal policy at the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. “It is often used to create the lots of frivolous judgments and such.

The number of lawsuits filed is decreasing, a result of the high costs of bringing lawsuits, stricter state laws designed to raise the bar for litigation.

State courts, which used to handle about 98% of criminal cases, are witnessing a sharp decline in criminal cases, Stanford’s Engstrom said. Less than two per 1,000 people criminal charges were initiated in 2015down from about 10 to 1,000 in 1993.

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