I see a lot of lawyer advertisements; on television, bus benches and billboards. Unlike some people, I have no objections to attorney advertising. Seemingly every other field advertises their products or services; I don’t see why lawyers should be any different. However, I do take with issue with lawyers who advertise using client testimonials or personal testimonials concerning settlements that they have achieved. I find that these advertisements can be misleading and potentially problematic for their client.
You have probably seen the advertisements on television or on billboards of lawyers or their clients exclaiming that they received a settlement of “one million dollars!” However, these advertisements are too cursory to go into any details concerning the case that led to the enumerated settlement amount. This can be misleading in two ways; 1) it can act as a covert “guarantee” that this specific lawyer can/will recover this type of amount for all clients, which can lead to client dissatisfaction and 2) it can sometimes overestimate the skills of the advertising attorney.
All claims are unique and involve differences in damages, liability and levels of insurance. Advertising an amount of a settlement is in no way instructive on what a different Plaintiff can expect from his/her lawsuit. Further, advertisements always boast about the large settlement, but in reality, those large settlements represent only a small percentage of personal injury cases. At worst, this is false advertising and at best, it gives the client unreasonable expectations.
Achieving a settlement with 6 or 7 figures is not necessarily indicative of skillful lawyering. Sometimes, it is merely indicative of lucky lawyering. Advertisements do not and cannot describe all of the aspects of a case that determine the outcome or settlement. Advertisements do not tell us the severity of the injuries. Advertisements do not tell us the severity of the accident. Advertisements do not tell us the culpability of the defendant(s). Advertisements do not tell us if and how much insurance was available to cover the losses. Advertisements do not tell us the skill of the lawyer involved in achieving the settlement; they merely give us a raw number. Advertisements cannot tell us if a more skilled attorney could have or would have achieved a higher settlement.
Be careful about putting too much importance on settlement amounts touted in lawyer advertisements. Don’t estimate the value of your case based off of cases presented in advertisements. Don’t assume that an attorney who has handled a high value case is a skilled attorney.