Block, Klukas, Manzella & Shell - April 2018

April 2018 815-726-9999 | THE BKMS BULLETIN

Billboard Attorneys and April Fools’ Having Your Best Interests at Heart

Every April kicks off with April Fools’ Day, a holiday some people adore, while others might call it a bit childish. I’m always in the mood for a good laugh, but in my field, there’s one joke I don’t find funny at all: the bait and switch of so-called “billboard, radio, and television attorneys.” You know the type. These attorneys put out tons of ads, plastering their smiling faces all over billboards along your morning commute and appearing on late-night TV commercials singing catchy tunes. They promise to be the “right fit” for potential clients, promise huge results, and encourage them to call their number now. Clients who need help end up calling the number, but they don’t get to talk to the person they saw in the ad. Instead, their call is directed to some firm they’ve never even heard of. This is because many attorneys who appear on these kinds of billboards or TV advertisements aren’t local. These attorneys are actually from places like Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, or Austin, and they put out slightly different versions of the same ad to target other areas around the country. But they have no interest in actually helping these communities. Instead, they farm out clients to other law firms, who pay the billboard attorney to send them more business. As a result, clients end up with lawyers who have no personal interest in them or their case. The person in need becomes just another number. We have been told by jurors, who are the conscience community, that they find the advertising distasteful. So, for the

client who goes into court represented by the lawyer who advertises with the catchy jingle or menacing nicknames, there may be one strike against them. Even if the case has merit and significant injuries, the jurors will see the lawyer as greedy and may not want to participate in a large award. This is an April Fools’ joke people fall for year-round, and it’s agonizing to watch. Many clients are desperate to get help fast, and this is something billboard attorneys prey on. People think they will get to work with the person they saw on TV — the person they chose — but billboard attorneys take advantage of them and send them to someone they’re unfamiliar with. The client doesn’t end up with the most experienced and senior partner; they are assigned to a new associate who just graduated and has little to no experience. The client doesn’t have the opportunity to research this attorney’s qualifications, get to know them, or determine if this attorney is even someone they want to work with. Not every lawyer with a billboard or late- night television spot abuses potential clients. However, it’s vital for clients to be able to trust the attorney they work with. Though we can’t read minds and learn what someone is really thinking, there are questions a client can ask themselves to determine if the attorney they’ve been sent to really has their best interests at heart:

notary to make me sign a document before anyone would talk to me?”

“Do they want to make sure I get the medical treatment I need to get better?”

“Are they available to take my phone calls when I need them?”

“Even if they are able to win my case, are they going to make sure most of the money goes to my medical bills? Or will my money go to attorney costs and surprise fees?”

“Has this attorney showed me that they are someone I can genuinely count on?”

It doesn’t matter if an attorney is referred to you by a close friend or by a number on a billboard; you are allowed to ask questions and take your time to determine whether this attorney is someone you feel comfortable working with. No matter what kind of case you have to deal with, you deserve to know the attorney you work with cares about what happens to you. Our law firm’s business plan for many years was to establish our firm’s name and reputation in the community and let our clients know that we prefer to get new clients by word of mouth. Do a good job and care about the client and they will send in family and friends. Because of this, we have only engaged in limited advertising over the years. The advertising we have done has mostly been designed to let clients know that we are still around and how they can find us.

“When I came into the office, did the lawyer come out to meet me? Or did they send a

–Brya n Shell

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