The Truth About For Profit Attorney Referral Services
The truth about for profit attorney referral services is that they are not law firms, lawyers or attorneys at all. The truth is that these for profit referral services are simply advertising firms who charge lawyers a fee to be referred personal injury cases. As I was watching the Dodgers game over the weekend, I was inundated with the television commercials from several of these services with “non-attorney spokespersons” touting their ability to represent victims of car accidents and other mishaps obtain money with “no upfront costs to you” and giving you “access to the best attorneys in Southern California.” In the “fine print” disclosure of these ads (which no one could possibly read in the amount of time it is on the television screen), it states, in pertinent part, as follows: “Spokesperson is not an attorney. Not a lawyer referral service or a law firm.” If you note past commercials, the names of this “group of independent attorneys”, varies from year to year. When you dial up the catchy “1-800-bestlawyersintown” jingle #, and ask if it is a law firm, you are told that they are not attorneys but, an “answering service” for attorneys.
What does this all mean the the California consumer? These companies are FOR PROFIT enterprises and are NOT law firms or lawyers. The people in their ads are not attorneys but, “attorney spokespersons.” They are not “lawyer referral services” in the traditional sense (i.e. set up by a bar association or other formal, legal organization with a screening process for attorney members pursuant to California Business and Professions Code §6155). Attorneys pay a fee each month (which can run into the thousands of dollars) to get cases referred to them by this group. When callers respond to these ads, they are referred to the paying to be a part of the “jointly advertising” attorneys. Because lawyers all pay to be in the group, calls are referred in a rotation to whoever is “in line” to take the call. In other words, getting “access to the best personal injury attorneys in California” really means getting random access to the lawyer who has simply paid a fee to be a part of advertising program. In addition, the attorneys that choose to pay a fee and receive cases in return are constantly turning over and changing. In my opinion, you would be better picking your lawyer by throwing a dart at a board or flipping a coin!Why hiring a personal injury attorney from a TV or Radio Ad By A For Profit Advertising Group May Not Be the Best Way to Get Quality Legal Representation for An Accident Claim:
The raw truth is that there are no special qualifications or expertise held by lawyers who are referred from television or radio advertisements. Whoever chooses to pay a fee to the service to be a part of the network gets calls that come in from the ads. When you are referred or transferred to an actual personal injury lawyer or law firm, that referral comes with no pre-qualification or conditions other than payment of fees to run thousands of television, radio and/or internet ads. As a personal injury lawyer with a solid track record of success over almost two decades, I feel that word of mouth and personal research into a lawyer’s background, experience and expertise are much better ways to choose who might represent the best interests of you and your family in the event of a auto accident or other tragic event resulting in catastrophic bodily harm or death of a loved one. Being involved in a car crash, slip and fall or other catastrophic event and trying to deal with insurance companies and health care providers, rental car agencies, body shops and the like is one of the most difficult periods one can deal with in life. The personal injury claims process is sometimes long and arduous with many twists and turns. You are dealing with adversaries in the form of insurance companies hell bent on trying to eliminate or reduce the payouts on claims. Hiring legal counsel to stand by your side and help you through this difficult process should not be a decision that one makes based upon a 30 second T.V. ad from a for profit entity who is simply providing your information to a lawyer who has paid a fee to be sent cases. The better approach would be to get personal referrals from friends and family and/or to do your own research and see of the attorney has established a reputation for success.
In addition to getting “real world information” from friends, family and other lawyers, the California consumer can also conduct quite a bit of research on any attorney they are thinking about hiring for their injury case on the internet. For example, you can check the record of the lawyer with the California State Bar Association, look at services like AVVO (who rates lawyers on a scale from 1-10 based upon objective criteria), or “Super Lawyers“, a service that seeks out and vets lawyers who have shown outstanding results over a significant career in the field of representing personal injury victims and their families.