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Category Archives: blog

12 months ago Ethics , Personal Injury

How Personal Injury Lawyer Ads Damage the Legal Profession

The Key to Personal Injury Practice: catching the Unlucky Victim of a Catastrophic Accident

In the practice of personal injury, the key to success is the ability to get cases where the plaintiff has suffered extreme injuries. According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2019, the average payout for personal injury claims was $17,000. If the damages are catastrophic, the potential for legal fees increases to millions of dollars. To increase the chances of getting catastrophic cases, personal injury attorneys spend big bucks on poor-taste advertisements that tarnish the legal industry’s reputation.

The term “ambulance chasers,” traced back to the early 1900s, was coined to characterize attorneys willing to do whatever it takes to get the unlucky prospective client to sign a contigency fee agreement. American Bar Associations, in response, have raised ethics rules to avoid such demeaning practices. According to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, attorneys should refrain from pursuing a client relationship with an individual who has not sought the lawyer’s advice.

The Damage to the Legal Profession

Where advertising remains one of the few legal avenues* open to attorneys to get these unicorn clients, pestering the radio and TV audience, along with billboards everywhere, is a staple in the PI attorneys’ marketing plan. A 2017 study by the University of North Texas found that personal injury law firms accounted for the top four advertisers in legal services, spending from $13 million to $24 million annually. Their advertisements frequently use forceful imagery, deploying hammers, lions, tigers, and similar symbols, which can degrade the professionalism of the legal profession.

Public perception of personal injury attorney advertising is often negative due to its aggressive and sometimes overbearing nature. According to a 2020 study by the American Association for Justice, approximately 72% of respondents felt that such advertisements were “crude” or “unprofessional.

The public does not know how much PI attorneys are different from other attorneys. When judging attorneys for their poor taste in advertisement and conveyed image of desperation to land a client will unfortunately tarnish the legal profession as a whole. In this sense, the public will charge all the attorneys with the dubious ethics of PI attorneys when it comes to advertisement.

* nonallowed tactics include paying fees to health provider professionals who will tip off attorneys on catastrophic accidents. Now guess if every attorney is really abiding by this rule.

The Subtle Damage to Attorneys Not Practicing Personal Injury

An overlooked issue emanating from such advertisements is the misguided expectation they breed among potential clients. Personal Injury attorneys will invariably offer a “no-win no-fee” arrangement. One step further, they will misguide prospective clients by conveying an image of a helpful lawyer who is sitting around just waiting to take their call. The “free consultation” and “call me 24/7 that I am here to take your call” are two other components of the aggressive marketing technique employed by PI attorneys. As a consequence of the ad-nauseam repetition of these begging approaching, the public in general tend to believe that all attorneys work or should work like this. Clients end up perceiving that attorneys should provide their consulting and advisory services for free, unless they are filing something with the court or doing paperwork.

Not surprisingly, some clients even react with anger when asked to schedule consultations and pay for legal counsel. They fall under the influence of personal injury attorney advertisements that broadcast the idea of no fees unless victory is assured and no consultation should ever be charged! However, this approach is limited strictly to personal injury cases and doesn’t apply to other areas of law.

Transactional lawyers or advisory-focused legal professionals depend on charging for their time and expertise to survive. Their work revolves around handling client transactions and providing strategic advice. For these professionals, the American Bar Association reports an average billable hour rate of $253. The constant wave of personal injury attorney advertisements can be particularly damaging to their practice.

Running a legal practice in the United States comes with substantial financial costs. According to the 2020 Legal Trends Report by Clio, a leading provider of legal practice management software, overhead costs account for 48% of a firm’s revenues. This percentage includes a variety of expenses such as rent, utilities, office supplies, insurance, and salaries for support staff. In terms of resources, legal research is another considerable expense. The cost of maintaining subscriptions to premier legal databases like Westlaw or LexisNexis can range from $200 to $300 per month per user as per a 2021 report by Lawyerist, a leading legal industry information platform. Furthermore, attorneys need to cover their continuing legal education expenses, which vary by state but can amount to hundreds of dollars annually. Lastly, it’s important to account for the high costs of legal education, with the average law school graduate in 2019 carrying a student loan debt of approximately $145,500 according to the American Bar Association. These figures collectively underline the considerable expenses associated with running a legal practice in the U.S.

Personal Injury advertisement hurts other attorneys – specially solo attorneys and smaller practices that tend to work with a less informed clientele.

What Do We Do?

A potential solution for this dilemma involves bar associations taking an active role in educating legal clients about the variety of legal practices. A 2019 Legal Trends Report suggests that most lawyers can’t mimic the no-win-no-pay arrangement popular in personal injury cases. The general public should be made aware that legal advisory services need fair compensation, including initial consultations.

In Brazil, a country with one of the highest numbers of lawyers per capita globally, the Brazilian Bar Association’s prohibition of free consultations plays a crucial role in preserving the dignity and livelihood of attorneys. This prohibition prevents the devaluation of legal services, ensuring that attorneys’ professional time, knowledge, and expertise are adequately compensated. It also discourages a “race to the bottom” mentality in which lawyers might feel compelled to undercut each other’s prices to attract clients. By setting a minimum expectation for payment, the Brazilian Bar Association contributes to maintaining a standard of living for attorneys in a fiercely competitive market. The prohibition of free consultations emphasizes the inherent value of legal counsel, reinforcing the respect and professionalism associated with the legal profession in Brazil.

The adoption of the prohibition of free consultations in the United States could be a game changer to the legal profession as a whole.

In conclusion, the influence of personal injury attorneys’ persistent advertisements on the legal industry is considerable. These ads sow false expectations among clients and erode the professionalism of the legal profession. By educating the public about the myriad legal practices and the necessity for equitable compensation, we can address this issue and foster a positive, reputable future for the legal profession.

 

12 months ago marketing , paralegals

Small Law Firm Owner: Two Techniques I use to Create a Steady Stream of Prospective Clients

Greetings, fellow legal professionals, entrepreneurs, and aspiring attorneys! Today, I, a Brazilian attorney with licenses in Texas and California, will share my personal journey of building a thriving and rewarding legal practice. Though English is not my native language, my dedication to my craft and the pursuit of excellence have paved the way for a successful career.

The Foundation: A Rich and Informative Website

When I first embarked on my solo attorney journey, I realized that establishing a robust online presence was crucial to reach a global audience and attract potential clients. To achieve this, I invested substantial time and effort in creating a website that served as a valuable resource for those seeking information on foreign citizens acquiring real estate in Brazil and personal injury claims.

I recognized the power of providing informative and actionable content, so my website became a treasure trove of articles, guides, and frequently asked questions related to my areas of expertise. Over the years, my website has earned credibility, attracting visitors from around the world and gaining backlinks, elevating its status as an authoritative source in the eyes of Google.

The journey to building an authoritative website was arduous, and it took more than two years of consistent effort. However, I firmly believe that consistency and perseverance pay off in the long run. For those starting on a similar path, I encourage you not to be disheartened by slow progress; instead, embrace the process and trust that your efforts will eventually yield tangible results.

You can see my website here: https://oliveiralawyers.com

YouTube: A Powerful Platform to Engage and Educate

Complementing my website, I started doing video content creation on YouTube. Based on common legal questions faced by my clients, I began producing videos that tackled pertinent issues related to real estate acquisitions in Brazil and personal injury claims in the US.

My initial videos were far from perfect, both in terms of content and production quality. Nevertheless, their relevance and authenticity attracted attention, and they gradually gained traction within my target audience. I upgraded my equipment and hired a professional editor to enhance the visual appeal and delivery of my videos.

You can see my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/@oliveiralawyers

The power of YouTube lies not just in its vast reach but also in its ability to establish me as an authority in my field. By consistently sharing practical knowledge and insights, my channel earned a reputation as a go-to resource for those seeking guidance on my legal specialties. This, in turn, fostered a sense of trust and confidence in potential clients who viewed me as a knowledgeable and reliable legal advisor.

The Importance of Consistency and Dedication

As my practice grew, I could not emphasize enough the importance of consistency and dedication. The path to success is seldom a smooth one, and it requires commitment to overcome challenges and setbacks.

Building a reputable online presence and establishing myself as an authority in my field demanded substantial time, energy, and financial investment. Yet, I firmly believe that every hour and every penny were well-spent, as they contributed to the solid foundation of my practice.

To those just starting their journey, I offer this advice: Be patient in your pursuit of excellence. Your dedication to delivering value to your audience will resonate with potential clients and pave your way for lasting success.

A Lifetime Journey as an Attorney

As I reflect on my journey, I am reminded of the lessons I have learned as a multilingual attorney carving a niche in the legal landscape. My dedication to creating an authoritative website and engaging video content has borne fruit, allowing me to make more money than I did as an employee attorney for a major litigation firm.

Remember, the road to success may be challenging, but with dedication, consistency, and a commitment to providing value, you too can create a thriving and rewarding legal practice.

Seize the opportunities before you, for time flies, and your dreams are closer than you think. Here’s to building a future filled with success and fulfillment as an attorney!

12 months ago blog

The Expanding Cross-Border Legal Practice

In today’s interconnected world, an increasing number of activities stretch beyond national borders, blurring traditional lines of jurisdiction. This rise in cross-border interactions, both personal and business-related, has created a greater demand for legal professionals adept at handling the intricacies of multi-jurisdictional issues.

Cross-border activities span multiple geographies, including, but not limited to, interactions between countries like the US and Brazil. As these countries experience a surge in trade and personal exchanges, the need for attorneys familiar with the laws of both jurisdictions becomes critical.

Bar Exams

Becoming licensed in multiple jurisdictions is no easy feat for attorneys, given the varied legal frameworks. Each jurisdiction has its unique bar examinations, specific legal ethics obligations, and even language requirements. The time, money, and energy involved in acquiring these qualifications pose significant challenges, but the demand for such expertise is undeniably high.

Consider the example of a Brazilian business wanting to open a branch in the US. The endeavor requires strict adherence to laws concerning business establishment, taxation, labor laws, and more in both the US and Brazil. An attorney well-versed in the legalities of both countries can streamline this process significantly.

Cross-border legal needs aren’t limited to business transactions. Family law matters are a significant area where multi-jurisdictional understanding plays a pivotal role. For instance, international divorces or child custody disputes involving parents residing in different countries require a nuanced understanding of multiple legal systems. In such cases, a lawyer skilled in handling laws of both countries can effectively advocate for their client’s rights.

An Interconnected Future

Moreover, this growth in cross-border activities raises complex questions about the future of legal practice. As the world becomes more intertwined, will we see more shared legal principles between jurisdictions, or will the differences become more pronounced?

This interconnectivity presents both challenges and opportunities for legal professionals. While gaining licensure in multiple jurisdictions is a daunting task, the increasing demand for such expertise underscores the significance of this path. As we delve deeper into this new legal reality, the call for targeted legal education and continuous professional development in cross-border law is certain to intensify. Legal professionals ready to embrace these challenges will be well-positioned to navigate this evolving landscape.

4 years ago blog

What Makes Lawyers Happy?

Emotional distress, dissatisfaction, and unprofessional behavior are major concerns in the legal field. The legal profession, as compared to other occupations, has a disproportionate number of unhappy people. Career choices driven by external factors such as status and compensation instead of intrinsic values like enjoyment and vocation are some of the reasons for such unhappiness.

In this infographic, we explore how major life choices by lawyers, early at law school and then throughout their careers, correlate to their well-being. A correlation is a measure of how two variables move together (“relate to each other”) – not necessarily cause and effect although still a possibility. Here, the higher the correlation, the more strongly the factor is linked to a lawyer’s well-being. A negative correlation, on the other hand, means a factor inversely associated with well-being.

Learning and keeping in mind how these factors correlate to happiness may help lawyers make better-informed decisions and stay on track for a more fulfilling professional and personal life.

Data Source: Lawrence S. Krieger and Kennon M. Sheldon, What Makes Lawyers Happy? A Data-Driven Prescription to Redefine Professional Success, 83 GEO. WASH. L. REV. 554 (2015),  https://ir.law.fsu.edu/articles/94

4 years ago paralegals

Importance of Paralegals

The larger the law firm, the more its attorneys will rely on paralegals to get work done.

Paralegals take care of much of the legal work done in a typical law firm in the US. It is true that such work is usually done under the supervision of a licensed attorney, but it is still amazing how much is done by paralegals.

Some examples of work typically done by paralegals:

  • Draft shells for pleadings, discovery, motions, etc.
  • Communicate with court personnel to retrieve files, file legal documents, and discuss about dates for hearings and trials
  • Research case law
  • Organize discovery and other documents
  • Communicate with opposing counsel and paralegals from other law firms
  • File legal documents
  • Pay court fees

Law firms that recruit paralegals with solid education and experience, can get much of the legal work done at a much better cost than it would be the case if done by attorneys. Again, such work must be supervised by a licensed attorney, who will always have the last word on which documents may be filed or served.

Learn more about the paralegal position at NALA, the US national association for paralegals: https://www.nala.org/

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