Monday, May 16, 2016

Educating the Public About Lawyer Selection



The State Bar of Texas regulates all lawyer advertising. For a lawyer to advertise a flyer, billboard, website, or other solicitation, they must pay a fee to the State Bar of Texas and adhere to the advertising and ethics rules that bind Texas lawyers. The State Bar of Texas will review the advertisement and either approve or disprove of its use. The rules are in place to protect the public from false advertising. However, the State Bar is having a hard time keeping up with cunning new ways for marketers to profit from lawyers and trick the public.


The above letter I received from the mail is an example of 'for profit' entrepreneurship.  For $410, I can have a plaque and use a logo on my website that touts me as one of America's "Most Feared Lawyers."  The question is by whom ? Who owns this company that goes by "De Medici Ratings" ? How many lawyers vote ? What lawyers vote ? I have received at least 2-3 other such solicitations in the mail from companies I have never heard of that for a fee, will send me a plaque and website logo to use for advertising. All of them tout me as the best in something  (such as DWI/DUI, etc.). This is ravenous preying upon lawyers by greedy profit mongers who want to make a buck. This is simply wrong. My advice to these proprietors is to get a degree, earn a reputation and tout your own worth.

The State Bar of Texas has board certifications that indicate a distinguished level of expertise in one's subject matter. The State Bar of Texas, as well as the American Bar Association (ABA) also recognize other prominent board certifications such as the National College of DUI Defense's (NCDD) DUI/DWI board certification. This is a true distinction of which to judge a lawyer's credentials.

Prominent industry organizations within the law, such as the nation's largest DUI/DWI organization, the National College of DUI Defense (NCDD) comprises of over 1800 members. They have a track record of  over 20 years contributing to the public's overall betterment through training public defenders and other lawyers, as well as assisting  with and submitting amicus briefs to the United States Supreme Court in defense of constitutional rights regarding DWI arrests. Membership and positions of leadership and contributions within such organizations inform the public of a lawyer's abilities, priorities, and respect amongst their peers.

In an age where a lawyer's website is key in giving the public information about that lawyer and their services, many "for profit" entrepreneurs are raking lawyers over the coals by promising high search engine results for a fee. In addition, many are touting fee membership to their own websites by promising referrals for certain cases. Their fees are exorbitant. Some pay per clicks are over $200 for popular search terms (for example:  "Dallas DWI Lawyer"). All these costs are passed back down to the client through their fees.  No one service can promise and deliver a constant high search engine rating and steady stream of clients (whose legitimacy is questionable under state bar rules for referrals).  It is a shame how outrageous these claims and their fees are.   The search engines are constantly revamping their rules to out such pay for play websites.

So where does this lead the public ? They should realize that when viewing a lawyer's advertising, ethically questionable declarations ("most feared lawyer') exhibit the morals of that lawyer.  Lawyers who contact you because you have submitted information to a website are lawyers who are desperate enough to pay for clients. Websites that are at the top of search engines may or may not represent the best lawyers (as most skilled lawyers are busy with their clients and not their websites). My advice to the public is to be smart.  Great lawyers are known because of their great results (first hand from people, not what is being purported in advertising).  Any criminal defense lawyer or DWI lawyer who claims to get 90% of their cases "dismissed" or "reduced" is just lying. These numbers are simply not possible (a check with the clerk's office of that lawyer by code and their clients will quickly dispel such myths).

I, for one, am doing my part of helping other lawyers and the public by not participating in such solicitations.  I refuse to pay for a "title". My accolades are all earned.  I refuse to pay marketers for clients.  All my advertising is my own.  So for the next advertising firm that wants to spend "5 minutes" with me talking about my website, don't waste your time.  I would not hire you even if your services were free.   For all those "pay to play" companies trying to sell me a title or accolade- consult state bar rules.  You should not be doing that. It is unfair to the public. For members of the public truly searching for a lawyer in earnest- I hope you have become enlightened.  In addition,  I hope you will not perpetuate the frenzy of vultures who prey on lawyers for a buck and thereby mislead you from a true merit based form of selection. Most of all, I hope you find a lawyer that truly represents you in the best way and one that you are most happy with.