Personal Injury: Ethical Issues of Marketing

To promote personal injury practice is a difficult task. Though there are a number of marketing strategies in place, even with their help it is not easy to stand out from the crowd. Some of the methods, such as advertising, require substantial financial resources and the expected outcome will not happen overnight. In order to achieve quick results some lawyers are using unethical marketing methods.

Advertising. Since the personal injury business became highly competitive, the advertising became more and more aggressive. Though the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Rules of Professional Conduct provide a general guideline for an advertising standards, the offensive and controversial ads are still present. The existence of such ads is pushing other personal injury professionals to follow this marketing path in their battle for a client. While some predict that advertising without any guidelines, like in the US, is a possible future for personal injury, others strive to promote the highest of ethical standards.

Soliciting clients. Another result of competition between personal injury lawyers is existence of certain unethical conduct to solicit clients. Sometimes personal injury professionals, or persons working on their behalf, approach vulnerable individuals who have suffered a trauma and sign a retainer agreement on the spot. These so called “ambulance chasing” methods raise the issue of civility in the profession. Some lawyers are also concerned that there is a damaging misconception is that personal injury lawyers receive referrals from tow-truck drivers. This improper conduct in soliciting clients negatively affects the image of personal injury lawyers.

New Ethical Guideline. Theneed for stronger control over the advertising process and regulation for solicitation of clients led to the need to develop new ethical standards for personal injury lawyers. The Ontario Trial Lawyers Association is now preparing a new guideline. It is directed to maintain the high professional standards, which are expected to go beyond the LSUC rules. The guideline will address the issue of civility in dealing with the general public, court and colleagues, and will provide advice in dealing with clients. The new ethical guideline for personal injury lawyers will not be binding. Its goal is to provide help to legal practitioners in answering ethical questions and maintaining public confidence and respect for the profession.

 

Iaroslavna Serenko is a Paralegal student at Centennial College in Toronto studying professional communications with Omar Ha-Redeye.

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