The answer is – not much.
Ordinary folks don’t think about attorneys until something stressful interferes with their lives. They look up and see a television ad or a billboard and dial the number. It’s what the advertising lawyers count on. The problem is that most people don’t really know what to look for when they need an attorney. And unfortunately, there are many reasons you probably shouldn’t hire that attorney you see advertised all over the place; I don’t want to step on any toes, but here are a few reasons why:
You may never talk to the lawyer you’re trying to contact.
Many times, the lawyer you see advertised is just a figurehead for a firm. The chances are pretty good that they are not trying cases, and the chances are also pretty good that they won’t ever see or work on your case. Realistically, a lawyer can only handle about 35 cases a year. If that lawyer on a billboard is getting 350 cases a year (or more), who is handling all of them and how well are they being handled?
Many times, people who hire a widely-advertised lawyer will never actually interact with an attorney. They will be forced to always talk to paralegals or, even worse, case managers who don’t have any real qualifications.
Many lawyers who advertise are simply looking for a large number of cases
If you crunch the numbers, the way to make the most money per hour as an injury lawyer is to get a lot of cases and settle all of them long before trial – even if it means settling for less than what clients deserve. For your average case, it takes far less time and effort to reach a quick, but small, settlement than it does to maximize the case value through hard work and preparation. Preparing an injury victim’s case for trial can take 200 hours and can last for years. If a lawyer doesn’t put in the time, work, and research necessary, they will be unprepared for trial and lose cases, which results in even lower settlements for clients since insurance companies know that lawyer doesn’t do their job well.
Don’t be fooled by the “No charge unless we collect” ad. Almost any lawyer will take a good case on contingency.
Often, the lawyers who are heavily advertising are just trying to get as many simple, cookie-cutter cases as possible so they can get the best return on their investment (by investing as little time as possible). They are not proactive as they plan a strategy for their clients to get them the settlement and compensation they deserve; instead, they react to developments in cases as they continually try to minimize the time they are involved in a case.
Handling a high quantity of cases doesn’t equate to being a higher quality lawyer
The simple truth is that the lawyers who get the best results – in settlements and in trials – are the ones who have a proven track record of actually trying cases. Those lawyers are the ones who are ready, willing, and able to put in the work, invest their time, and go to bat for their clients. Many attorneys, especially those who rely on a high volume of cases for their revenue, simply aren’t willing to do that.
Practicing law since 1981, I have made a lot of friends. Often I have done little legal favors for them for free or for a very small fee. More than once these friends ended up with major legal problems and called an advertising lawyer instead of talking to their friend. If you have the misfortune of having a real big legal problem, talk to a friend whether he is a lawyer or just happens to have had experience with a lawyer. In either case, you will be better off than calling the number on the billboard.
There. I got that off my chest.