New York Personal Injury Law Blog » Attorney Ethics


January 16th, 2009

We Have A Winner! (Lawyer Soliciting Airline Victim Department)

Last night I wondered who would be the first to violate New York’s 30-day ban on attorneys soliciting after a mass disaster (Hudson River Plane Crash To Test New York’s New Attorney Ethics Rules?)

Now we seem to have a clear winner. After Googling “Flight 1549” we get this ad in the right side-bar of Google (Flight1549LawyerSearch.pdf)

USAirways Crash Victim?
Helping Victims of Flight 1549
Contact Our Aviation Attorneys
New York, NY

Clicking on the link brings this predictable text:

Were you a loved one aboard US Airways Flight 1549? Are you concerned about your legal rights? Contact our firm to understand how to protect yourself and to seek damages for injuries or trauma sustained during the crash.

OK, those are the facts, now let’s follow the ethics rules…

The anti-solicitation rule is as follows, from New York’s Code of Professional Responsibility (with my italics as emphasis):

DR 7-111 (22 NYCRR 1200.41-a) Communication After Incidents Involving Personal Injury or Wrongful Death

(a) In the event of an incident involving potential claims for personal injury or wrongful death, no unsolicited communication shall be made to an individual injured in the incident or to a family member or legal representative of such an individual, by a lawyer or law firm, or by any associate, agent, employee or other representative of a lawyer or law firm, seeking to represent the injured individual or legal representative thereof in potential litigation or in a proceeding arising out of the incident before the 30th day after the date of the incident, unless a filing must be made within 30 days of the incident as a legal prerequisite to the particular claim, in which case no unsolicited communication shall be made before the 15th day after the date of the incident.

So is a Google ad a solicitation? First, here is the definition of solicitation, paying particular attention to section (d):

A “solicitation” means any advertisement:
a) which is initiated by a lawyer or law firm (as opposed to a communication made in response to an inquiry initiated by a potential client);
b) with a primary purpose of persuading recipients to retain the lawyer or law firm (as opposed to providing educational information about the law) (see EC 2-6(c));
c) which has as a significant motive for the lawyer to make money (as opposed to a public interest lawyer offering pro bono services); and
d) which is directed to or targeted at a specific recipient or group of recipients, or their family members or legal representatives.

Any advertisement that meets all four of these criteria is a solicitation, and is governed not only by the rules that govern all advertisements but also by special rules governing solicitation.

So what does it mean to be “directed to or targeted at a specific recipient or group of recipients…?” Glad you asked. So here it is, under Ethical consideration (EC) 2-19:

“…an advertisement in a public medium such as newspapers, television, billboards, web sites or the like is a solicitation if it makes reference to a specific person or group of people whose legal needs arise out of a specific incident to which the advertisement explicitly refers.”

So what does the Law Firm of Jonathon C. Reiter win? Either clients or a bench slap. We’ll see which one it is.

Note: The law firm link I provided is via TinyUrl redirect so that the firm does not benefit from any Google juice from this posting.

Links to this post:

mortimer, morden, and miracles
a few “quickies” that took too long to write this saturday morning afternoon: thank you, john mortimer, for creating rumpole: as today’s new york times reports, “john mortimer, barrister and writer who created rumpole, dies at 85” (jan.
posted by David Giacalone @ January 17, 2009 1:25 PM

7 thoughts on “We Have A Winner! (Lawyer Soliciting Airline Victim Department)

  1. I am trully sorry for the light that this kind of marketing sheds on the legal profession.

    Well, the flip side of this is that there are a million lawyers in the country. But how many solicited for this accident?

    I think it’s unrealistic to expect 100% perfection in any profession.

    The issue, for me, is that the courts have laid down a rule, and I’m interested in seeing how (if at all) they will elect to enforce it.

  2. The funny thing, of course, is that the value of the claims in this accident is very small even if their was negligence. There were no serious injuries. So this firm is getting publically embarassed for solicition of cases that are worthless. Moreover, the jury appeal of these cases is awful.

    The smarter thing that we have had a lot of success with is waiting at intersections where there are a lot of accidents. Much more lucrative. I just suggest wearing running shoes. (That was for you, Throckmorton.)

  3. What of those people who post about those people who solicit like that? Isn’t that the next step?; saying “look at those jerks, I’m not like them, you should hire me.” Of course I’m not saying that your post had that intent and your other readers know that as well, but there are those who would do such things.

  4. David:

    Solicitation has a million shades of gray, and I am aware that others might accuse a blogger of using his or her blog to solicit (which is why I try hard not to write anything remotely self-promotional, and also why I think this blog has met with a measure of success)

    On that note, check out the comment at this post after a train accident in Southern California:
    “Metrolink Train Attoneys” Appear (And What If It Happened in New York?)

    And, by the same author, this blog posting:
    Chatsworth California Metrolink train crash kills 25, injures hundreds, and wreaks havoc on my neighborhood.

  5. But what stops the airline from contacting victims in the same time period?

    Section (b) of the same ethics rule applies the rule to defense counsel as well:

    (b) This provision limiting contact with an injured individual or the legal representative theoreof applies as well to lawyers or law firms or any associate, agent, employee or other representative of a lawyer or law firm who represent actual or potential defendants or entities that may defend and/or indemnify said defendants.