Say the words ‘personal injury lawyer’ at a party and watch the eyes roll. But is that attitude entirely fair?
Fair it may not be. Deserved? That’s another question altogether.
Here in Ontario, when the Law Society of Upper Canada decided to relax its rules around marketing for lawyers, some firms took that to mean that advertising and marketing could become a free for all of loud graphics, flashing lights and ‘in your face’ aggressive marketing tactics.
Most firms did not follow them down this path, but we all tend to get painted with the same tarnished brush.
So if we’re going to discuss the good, bad and the ugly, let’s just get ugly out of the way first.
The Ugly Side Of Personal Injury Law Marketing
We’ve all seen them: the loud advertisements on television, billboards and websites, telling you that if you’ve been injured somehow, that you need to call XYZ Law Firm and get your money.
Their whole marketing plan is centered around telling you that they – and presumably they alone – would work so very hard for you, so much so that they won’t take a dime unless you get a settlement.
Guess what? That’s true for most ALL personal injury lawyers! Unlike other areas of law (real estate, commercial, etc.) personal injury lawyers are typically only paid based on a settlement, including disbursements for expenses. While not a false claim, it’s certainly one that could be misinterpreted if you didn’t know the truth of the matter.
The Bad Side of Personal Injury Law Marketing
Social media has created an interesting way that some firms can skirt the edges of what’s known as ambulance chasing. What is that? It’s an old saying that refers to a lawyer approaching a victim at an accident site, literally chasing the ambulance to the hospital, in order to secure the case.
This kind of behaviour is, obviously, completely unethical and goes against the Rules of Professional Conduct that are outlined by the Law Society (Source).
Thanks to social media however, a lawyer or firm could approach potential clients under the guise of ‘rendering assistance’. For example, if you were tweeting with a friend that you had been in a car accident a few days before and now your neck was hurting, you open yourself up to being approached by a lawyer or firm about your injuries if there is a connection between the lawyer and that friend. It’s a sketchy approach and not widely used, but it exists.
As to other online resources, if you’re reading a blog on a firm’s website (like this one) or other information that is provided by a firm, consider their sources. Buying followers on Twitter to make firms look more important (I’m proud to say that my Twitter community is completely organic and it’s taken me years to develop it) and ‘borrowing’ content from other lawyers or resources with little in the way of attribution are not uncommon practices.
One last thing to consider is the volume of advertising that some firms engage in. Marketing personal injury legal services is one situation where more isn’t always better. The quality of the information being provided is far more important. Be wary and do your homework before signing a retainer.
The Good Side of Personal Injury Law Marketing
Letting people know about their options in personal injury situations, via marketing, is a good thing. There is real value in marketing truths and letting the public know what’s available to them, how to access the services and why it’s important that they do access them in a timely fashion.
For example, the fact that personal injury lawyers usually get paid based on a settlement, as I mentioned earlier, is positive: it makes justice accessible to all, not just those who can afford to go forward with a suit.
Personal injury lawyers work closely with their clients and care about them. They play a vital role in the justice system by advocating for accident victims, facilitating access to care and rehabilitation, and reaching fair settlements for clients, so that they can go on with their lives, plans and hopes for the future.
When you’re looking at hiring a personal injury lawyer, it’s far more important that you be comfortable with their skills and style than with flash and glamour advertising. I encourage you to do your due diligence when choosing a lawyer and, if something makes you uncomfortable, trust your instincts.