It’s great fun to travel around the country and when I can, I always watch local TV stations to see how personal injury lawyers advertise in those jurisdictions. It’s always easy to find these ads too: Just turn on the half hour courtroom reality shows that air mid-day. The commercials that fill in between screaming, moronic litigants and a hapless “judge” are almost nothing but lawyer ads preying on those who are sitting at home during the middle of the workweek.
For those who don’t know, all lawyer TV ads in Florida must be screened by and approved by the Florida Bar. They do our policing. And if you think some of the ads you’ve seen on Florida television push the envelope of taste, the ones I’ve seen around the country look and sound like “Saturday Night Live” skits.
In New Orleans a few years ago, I watched a commercial of a woman at her workplace on a ladder grabbing a book from a high shelf in the office library. The next shot is of her on the floor writhing in pain. Out of nowhere is a man in a business suit bending over and handing her his business card and says: “Don’t just lay there. Hire ME! I can sue your employer and get you lots of money!! Just call 1-800-SueForJustice…….” While I hate the term “ambulance chaser” this guy even beat the ambulance. Just obnoxious.
In another southern state (frankly I forgot which one), we hear a screech of brakes as the commercial opens and then an old woman actor crashes her pretend convertible though a brick wall for unknown reasons. As she’s sitting there with cardboard bricks still falling occasionally on her gray head, a spokesperson voices over, “Don’t know what happened? We can figure it out and sue on your behalf!” So, apparently, even if you’re at fault and crash through a brick wall, maybe you can still sue and get some money. Cringe.
Most recently, I was in Texas where everything is large including the legal advertising hyperbole. A woman is in an arm cast for some unknown reason. She can’t be too badly hurt – she still has her arm. Maybe it’s maybe fractured or broken. Another voice-over beckons: “I’m attorney Dewey Cheatham*. You need to hire me for your case. I’ve gotten clients millions of dollars. Why settle for tens of thousands of dollars when I can get you hundreds of thousands of dollars? I’ve done it for others and I can do it for you!” For a broken arm?! Oh sweet jeebus!
Most personal injury trial lawyers absolutely hate this type of advertising. If you’re doing a good job for your clients, referrals will follow without having to resort to this nonsense. While lawyer advertising is here to stay, I’m glad our Florida Bar does at least screen out these types of ads that makes me want to throw a real brick through the TV screen. It just makes us all look bad. And if there’s one thing our profession doesn’t need, it’s tacky and misleading advertising.
*There is no attorney to my knowledge named “Dewey Cheatham”. If there is, I’d advise him to change his name.