Lawyer Advertisements - Why You Can't Trust Them
We know more than anyone there is an overabundance of lawyer advertising everywhere you turn. It is nearly impossible for an injury victim to know how to pick an attorney who will be the best fit and get the most successful results. Almost all lawyers send the same message: "Hire me, I'm the best, I'm aggressive, I'll get results." It seems that almost every ad is a near duplicate of the ad before it. Instead of actually sharing a message in what differentiates one firm from another, most lawyer ads are just different pictures and different mascots that are no benefit whatsoever to the people who really need us.
We have put below a list of items that we think the average consumer should be aware of when searching for an attorney. Some of our best friends are attorneys so we are not saying that every lawyer's advertisements cannot be trusted. What we are saying is that, personally, we want to educate the average consumer on how to search for the "right" attorney as you comb through all of the look-alike ads, commercials, and websites.
It is amazing how many people market themselves as personal injury lawyers while at the same time marketing themselves as though they are experts in divorce cases, child custody cases, DUI defense, armed robbery defense, murder defense, wills, trusts, estate planning, and just about every other possible area of the law. If you look closely at these lawyers' testimonials, if they have any, it is one way of deciphering which attorneys focus on personal injury and which do not.
We have done nothing but practice personal injury from the day we started together. And yet, even now we cannot claim to know everything. Nobody can know everything about one area of the law. The law has grown increasingly complex. The law varies so much on so many different issues that it is impossible even for people trying to be the best possible lawyers they can be to actually know everything that must be done. If that is the case, how can people claim that they are "personal injury lawyers" and are looking for "personal injury cases" when it is just a fraction of what they do. It raises the question as to what percentage of their cases are personal injury cases. Raising the question as to whether or not they're doing personal injury because that is what they think they can excel at on behalf of their client, or because they simply can't get enough work from the areas of law that they are actually best at.
It seems as though every single lawyer claims to have experience. The problem is that there is no definition for what "experienced" means. Is somebody an experienced lawyer because after spending 20 years in the prosecutor's office they decided to handle their first personal injury case? Is somebody an experienced lawyer because they've handled one injury case and therefore, the next client will not literally "be their first." How many cases must somebody have handled to be an "experienced" personal injury lawyer? What about the law firm that has handled nothing but small whiplash cases and they are searching for people to hire them and retain them in wrongful death cases. Are they truly "experienced?"
The reality is that any lawyer in Arizona can put in their advertisement that they are experienced. While degrees of experience can vary, in the end what clients need to look for, in our view, are lawyers with experience in handling cases of the severity that they are faced with. Lawyers who have been through and continue to work through cases of the same magnitude. Lawyers who dedicate themselves and strive to be the best personal injury lawyer they can be by fully dedicating themselves to that one area of practice for the benefit of the clients they take on.
In Arizona one way to decipher the amount of an attorney's experience is to know if they are a certified specialist in injury and wrongful death law. Although there are some excellent lawyers in injury and wrongful death law, many of the most Arizona injury and accident lawyers have earned the distinction of being named a certified specialist in injury and wrongful death law from the State Bar of Arizona. One way to tell if an attorney is a certified specialist it to see if they mention it in their marketing materials or on their website. Mark is a certified specialist and other attorneys refer us cases because Mark is a specialist. You can also call the State Bar of Arizona or simply ask the attorney you are considering hiring. Also, it is not good enough that the firm has a certified specialist. You want to know that the attorney who is going to be working on or having some direct contact with your case is a certified specialist.
It seems as though every personal injury lawyer claims to be a trial lawyer. That is interesting, because we have met lawyers who have been claiming to be personal injury trial lawyers for years, and yet we never seem to bump into them at the courthouse. We have not read about a single case that they have ever tried to a jury. It seems as though everybody wants to be a "trial lawyer" without ever having to try the cases. That is probably because they know people looking for an injury lawyer want someone with trial experience. Why is that? You want someone who has trial experience because more likely than not that will increase the value of your case because that attorney will have the reputation necessary to get the insurance company to settle…and for a higher amount.
When Mark went to law school, he did so because he thought he would want to be a trial lawyer. He thought that being in front of a jury is something he would love to do, to fight for a client in front of a jury is something he thought he would love. And it turns out, what he thought was true was in fact true. If you ask Mark today, he will tell you that his favorite part of what he does is the time he gets to spend in front of a jury during his jury trials. He will tell you that he enjoys going to trial more than most people ever liked their job. That for him, going to trial is not something he wants to avoid, but something he is more than willing to do if a fair settlement is not able to be reached. Many times, Alexis is also by his side as they work together as a team.
In this way, we believe we are true "trial lawyers" that are fighting the fight for the people who are deserving. It is not just a label that sounds good. To be a trial lawyer, you have to back it up by actually fighting for your clients in the courtroom. There are some ways you can find out if an attorney has trial experience, but they are very costly to the average consumer. Again, if an attorney is a certified specialist, he or she will tell you that they have a lot of trial experience as part of being awarded the distinction of a certified specialist entails Judges recommendations that the lawyer has appeared in front of, and other opposing counsel that the attorney has gone up against. Also, the State Bar has certain requirements that need to be met to be a certified specialist in injury and wrongful death law and part of that requirement is to show that you have tried a certain number of cases and that those cases' value are more significant than just a minor injury case.
This might be our favorite one. Every lawyer is "aggressive." Aggressive, aggressive, aggressive. Obviously, someone must have been told a long time ago that people want an "aggressive" lawyer on their side.
First of all, you better have a lawyer that's much more than just aggressive. The lawyer better be smart, the lawyer better be skilled, and the lawyer better have the work ethic, intelligence, and systems in place to benefit his clients. Somebody who is just "aggressive" and goes swinging wildly is a waste of everybody's time and effort. Also, not every case calls for the same tactic. Some cases are best served with one approach, other cases in another.
The reality is from what we've seen that the lawyers who advertise themselves as "aggressive" seem to range from the meek to the overly aggressive in personality and in every other way. More importantly, anybody can say that they are "aggressive." What does aggressive mean? If aggressive means screaming and yelling because they are actually unable to do the research and take the time to articulate their thoughts and win a case, then that does not fit our firm. If aggressive means showing repeated willingness and ability to take on multi-billion dollar corporations and beat them at their own game on behalf of the clients who are deserving of compensation and trust in us, then we are extremely aggressive. However, you will not see our website, our marketing materials, or anything else overly filled with the word "aggressive" because we think it has become a meaningless and empty statement that is copycatted by every lawyer without any thought whatsoever.
In the end, you need an attorney whose work is going to be such that your case settles for the maximum amount of recovery. It probably is difficult for someone who is searching for an attorney to know if the attorney they are considering hiring is aggressive since aggressive cannot be quantified. We suggest that one of the ways to know if an attorney is aggressive is to know if the attorney does take cases to trial. Just looking aggressive is not enough. Some of the friendliest lawyers we know are the most aggressive in their field. Just because an attorney is standing tall and looks unapproachable or looks like a bully is no indication that attorney is going to get good results.
Many lawyers advertise "no recovery no fee." Presumably this means that the lawyer will work on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee is different than an hourly fee. An attorney who works for an hourly fee will keep his/her time and will be paid each hour that they work as they do the work. These attorneys usually charge a retainer up front and bill against it each month.
A contingency fee exists where the attorney and client agree to the attorney receiving a certain percentage of the settlement. We are a firm that works only on contingency fee agreements. Every single dollar we have made, we have earned through the fight for a deserving client. Our clients don't pay us for anything less than success. If for some reason there is no money obtained for our client, we do not get paid any fee. Take your time looking at the fee agreement before you hire an attorney. A fee agreement should be simple and easy to understand. It should be in plain language. Every lawyer creates their own fee agreement. To our knowledge there is no standard fee agreement. Therefore, every fee agreement is different. Look over each section, make sure you understand every section and you should feel comfortable talking to the attorney about any questions you may have.
Advancing costs is another thing you will see in a lot of lawyer's ads. What this means is that the lawyer will pay for all the costs associated in the case and the costs will then come out of the total settlement. When it comes to serious injury cases and preparing a case, almost always a Judge will require experts to present certain claims to the jury. That is, if a lawyer wants to show that his client lost $1,000,000 in lost wages, it will need to be presented by a person who specializes in numbers and can show how much the person lost and how they came to that amount of money. If you are claiming that you fell on something, you will have to show through an expert almost always why the place where you fell did not provide a safe atmosphere. When considering hiring an attorney, ask them if you pay all costs? Do you have enough money to hire any expert that you will see fit to litigate my claim? Are you going to ask me for money later to help with the costs?
In many of our cases, we have had to hire many separate expert witnesses. Many of whom are from all around the country. Many of our client's cases require an investment in expert witnesses and other resources well into the tens of thousands of dollars, with some personal injury cases requiring well over $100,000 in costs.
The State Bar of Arizona recently changed their rules to say that attorneys cannot only front costs, but also if for whatever reason there is no settlement, the attorney does not have to ask the client for the money back. Ask the attorney you are considering hiring if they ask their clients for money back for costs if for whatever reason the case does not settle? We can personally tell you that we have never had a client pay us any money for costs - prior to winning or if for whatever reason the case did not settlement. There are no guarantees in the law, so it is important you know the lawyer's position on the costs.
We don't just pay the costs because we are "good guys." We do it because our clients trust us to be able to do everything possible to win their case. Most of our clients are going through a traumatic and terrible time. Many are not even working and very few could ever afford to fund the costs of a personal injury case of this magnitude. As said prior, cases often take tens of thousands of dollars in costs, sometimes a personal injury case can take well over $100,000.00 of costs to pursue. To ask a client to pay that up front or to cut down on the experts you hire or the work that you do to save money is unfair. We will not do it. Our clients trust in us and we trust in our ability as we trust in them. Our clients only pay us when we are successful in getting compensation to them for everything that they have suffered as a result of the negligence of somebody else.
One final issue that exists in the "lawyer advertising world" is the lack of genuine lawyers. Far too many people are just the "face" of the firm, and they do not practice law. Ask any lawyer you are considering hiring, if the person on their advertisement is an actual lawyer who will work on your case.
With us, "The Husband & Wife Law Team" is not simply a slogan and we are not just the figure heads of our firm. We are lawyers working for our clients every day. We are part of every case that we take on and we are a part of every victory we achieve. When clients call us and both the client and our firm determine that this is a case that is a good fit for us to take, our clients know that they have not been "sucked in" by Alexis and Mark Breyer only to find out that Alexis and Mark are never in the office and have nothing to do with what is going on. Instead, we are the real lawyers, the real people, fighting for our real clients every day.
Remember, when you have a serious injury or have lost a loved one and are going to pursue an injury claim, the reality is that you have one chance to pick the Arizona injury lawyer that is going to help you through this difficult process. This is a 'one time only' opportunity to try to get compensation to help you through the days and years to come. There is no second chance. There almost always is no shot to hire a new lawyer later on. Filtering through all that is thrown out there in lawyer advertising and picking a lawyer that is the best for you and can do the best job for you is more important than any slogan. We encourage people to take the time necessary to pick an attorney that is going to be able to achieve the results you want and the communication you need. If you have more questions, feel free to call us at (602) 267-1280. You can also request a copy of our book or e-mail us if you feel more comfortable.
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Confidentially reviewed by Attorney Mark Breyer