I touched a nerve when I called out PI lawyers as shameless in naming selected injury victims in their blogs, which in the case of at least one lawyer is done in hope that the victims would contact the lawyer.
Peter Lattman at the WSJ Law Blog asks whether a lawyer’s reporting the name of person in a coma then passing away a few weeks shy of his 25th birthday in hope that the victims family calls the lawyer is fair game or gives the plaintiffs bar a bad name?
I’ve already said such conduct is sleazy and perpetuates the poor image we have as a profession. And for those of us who care about the rights of injury victims just risks more pro insurer legislation veiled as ‘tort reform.’
Surprisingly there were commenters to the WSJ post finding the lawyers conduct as okay – on such grounds as free speech, that the law is a business and ‘this guy is just trying to get some,’ and that it’s no worse than other stuff lawyers do.
Fortunately there were an equal number who are offended by such conduct. Some find it unethical while others said just because it may be legally permissible does not make it right. One commenter nailed it for me:
Blogging is not a license to ignore common sense. This blogger is a classic ambulance chaser — nothing more. Advertising is fine. Targeting specific people based on their bad luck and misfortune is wrong. How obnoxious does advertising need to get before we just say — enough.
And lawyer bloggers didn’t take kindly to the unseemly conduct.
New York criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield calls hit the blawgosphere hitting a new low:
While we may quibble over whether promotional blawging impairs the purpose and credibility of the blawgosphere, at least we share the belief that it should never deliberately violate ethical precepts and prove to the world that attorneys are, indeed, the lowest form of scum……One step removed [from ambulance chasing] might be generous in the digital age when physical presence behind the ambulance isn’t necessary. This feeds into every negative stereotype of lawyers, with the only difference being the adaptation of the internet as the delivery mechanism.
New York personal injury lawyer Eric Turkewitz calls it blatant solicitation:
Thus, he goes beyond the mere advertising, and into outright solicitation of an individual. Even if he is ethically secure on First Amendment grounds, what the has done certainly appears scummy and is a close cousin to sending a solicitation in the mail to the house. Or picking up the phone and calling. Or sending a person to the house. Or the hospital. You know where I’m gong with this. Solicitation is but one step removed from actual ambulance chasing.
If this were a one time thing, I may not be too critical but much of the blog is like that and I too find it to be very bad form. I am not shocked though given what I have seen in other forms of personal injury lawyer advertising and direct solicitations here in Wisconsin and elsewhere.
I’d like to see more law bloggers calling out the naming of accident victims in blogs as shameless. It’s a practice that should not swept under the rug with a view that it’s legal and no worse than the other sleazy things lawyers may do. Not to call for it’s stop is to risk the good name lawyers stand to gain by helping the public via blogs.