Sometimes, bigger is actually better. Buy-one-get-one-free, or 4 tires for the price of 3 – those can be sweet deals. But when it comes to selecting a personal injury lawyer to handle your accident case, the size of the firm alone, or how many times you see them on television or hear them on the radio, are not good ways to gauge their effectiveness.
I'm sure many of you remember the times before the Florida Bar even allowed lawyers to advertise – and we understand that many of you miss those days, before 1976. Now, it's not uncommon to be inundated with law firm advertising while watching your favorite evening TV shows or listening to the radio on your commute to work.
The Florida Bar has very strict rules about how attorneys advertise, what they can and cannot say, even what they can imply. These rules were enacted to protect the consumer, and that's a good thing. But unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions out there about law firm and attorney advertising, and some people's justification for hiring a personal injury lawyer can be swayed by a TV spot or a radio commercial.
The Florida Bar has developed and enforced a legal disclaimer that was to be used on any and all forms of attorney advertising:
“The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide, ask us to send you free written information about our qualifications and experience”.
We couldn't agree more with that statement, and actually feel it should be a bit stronger. Of course, we readily send any prospective client any information they ask for – but the truth is, hardly anyone ever asks. And you can go onto our website and read testimonials from our past clients – after you've clicked on the button that says you agree to do so of your own free will.
OK, let's be candid here. Every lawyer worth their salt wants to grow his or her business. After all, a law firm is just that – a business. The vast majority of our clients come to us because they know us – they were either former clients themselves, and called us again when they were involved in another accident, their mother fell down because of a puddle on the grocery store floor, or something similar. Or maybe a former client's cousin or neighbor was told to call us after talking about their accident, knowing we could help.
We are not saying we don't want to grow our business. We just don't think that talking about ourselves every twelve minutes on TV is the way to do it. All the slick, polished advertisements you see – incessantly, in some cases – do not imply that a particular law firm or lawyer is better equipped to handle your legal case. In fact, most consumers don't understand the huge number of restrictions placed upon legal advertisers regarding what they say, how they say it, and even the photos or sound effects used in their ads.
There are restrictions against showing a photo of a crashed car, so as not to elicit a sense of fear in a prospective client. (Yet, you'll still see some used here locally.) Also, saying you ‘specialize' in something, or that you are an ‘expert' in a particular area of the law, are tactics that are forbidden by the Florida Bar. (As of this writing, there is a Florida law firm that has hired a passel of high-powered Washington attorneys and filed suit against the Florida Bar. The suit challenges two specific rules within the Bar's advertising guidelines; one that requires lawyers' advertisements to be “objectively verifiable”, and another that restricts specialization claims.)
We understand fully that the hiring of an attorney, especially when you have been hurt in an accident that wasn't your fault, can be a pretty confusing and intimidating experience. That's why we encourage you to ask your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers if they have any recommendations. You can call for an appointment to come in and meet with us, at no charge, to confidentially talk about your specific situation, or we can come to you. And at Goldberg, Racila, D'Alessandro & Noone, you'll meet with an attorney, not a case management staffer or paralegal.
I'm attorney Scot Goldberg, and I'm a Fort Myers native. My associates and I – Mike Noone, Ray Racila and Joe D'Alessandro – are proud of what we do, and of the many long-lasting friendships we have made during our years of practicing law. I encourage you to do your research and ask questions if you ever find yourself suffering from injuries caused by an accident that was not your fault.
Bigger is not always better, and flashy TV ads and a pretty smile do not indicate a lawyer's ability, success or willingness to go to battle for you. And those lawyer referral services, like 1-800-Ask-Gary and 411PAIN? We have quite a lot to tell you about them, too – but let's save that for another post.
Here's your bottom line: Don't select your attorney because he or she has the most face-time on the tube. Do it because you've talked to them and researched them and know that they will handle your case in a manner that's right for you. If you want to talk with us or find out more about our credentials, we'd love to hear from you. Our phone numbers are at the top (and bottom!) of every page, or feel free to fill out our contact form if that's better for you.