Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Not All Of Us Send (Or Even Condone) Lawyer Solicitation Letters

We've all heard about or seen those "lawyer letters" that arrive just a few days after someone's been in a crash. If you've been in an accident, you'll receive scads of them--along with videos, DVD's, refrigerator magnets, and, conveniently, a copy of usually the first page of your accident report. I can tell you that well over 90% of attorneys do not engage in this practice. Rick and I have always believed that this practice represents the worst of our profession, and feeds into the "ambulance chasing" stereotype so prevalent among us. Because of the pervasive nature of these letters, is it any wonder that the public thinks we're all chasing cases?

As proof of our objection to this practice, our local trial lawyers' group asked The Supreme Court Of Ohio to institute a 30 day ban on sending such letters. Why a 30 day ban and not an outright ban? Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1970's upheld the right of attorneys to send these letters as a First Amendment right of free speech. Therefore, states can't pass a law banning the right to send them.

We suprisingly had alot of support from our colleagues across the state, and below is an excerpt of a newspaper article that covered our attempts to place limits on this practice. Unfortunately, the Ohio Supreme Court refused to enact the 30 day ban, which was disappointing given the general public's distaste for this practice. Attorneys who send these letters have every right to do so, and we who don't agree with this business practice have every right to criticize it.

And if you want to hire an attorney or firm that acquires clients in this manner, that is your right as well. Below is an excerpt from a newspaper article discussing out attempts to limit direct mail solicitation...

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March 10, 2005
Excerpt from the Akron Beacon Journal

A group of trial attorneys from Stark County wants the Ohio Supreme Court to call off the ambulance chasers -- at least until the bruises have time to heal.

The Stark County Academy of Trial Lawyers has asked the high court to consider instituting rules that would prevent lawyers from soliciting accident victims by mail until a month after their crashes. One Akron personal injury lawyer, however, believes the action is a bad idea because it would make accident victims the unwitting prey of insurance adjusters.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said he hopes to reopen discussions on the issue, and personally favors a 30-day limit.

Brian Wilson, president of the Stark association, said his group would prefer to see the mail solicitation of accident victims abolished completely, but knows that would infringe lawyers' First Amendment right to free speech.

The group is hoping Ohio will consider instituting a 30-day rule, which is in place in other states. A 30-day delay also has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Wilson added.

"It can't be banned. The question is: How can it be limited?" he said. "The 30-day ban will bring a greater sense of decency to the whole process… with a 30-day ban, people's immediate sense of privacy is not invaded by a letter which arrives within a few days after either a minor accident or a horrible calamity," Wilson said.

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