Attorney advertising and how to choose an attorney from an ad. “Ooh, ooh, pick me,” “No, pick me,” yelled the ad in the phone book. “I needed an accident lawyer to find out what I need to do since I was hit from behind last week. I looked in the yellow pages in Brooklyn, and found over 40 pages of lawyer ads. Who do I pick?” The truth is, not all lawyers advertise. Those who do are required to list specific areas of law in which they practice. In New York, injury and malpractice lawyers are not allowed to call themselves ‘experts’ in their field of law. Nor can they misrepresent themselves in an advertisement. For example, they cannot stand next to a person with a cast on their leg, in a wheelchair and a pile of cash on the table claiming that since this person recovered all that money, he or she could do the same for you. That’s nothing more than a shameless sales pitch. The reality is that no lawyer can claim to get you “cold hard cash” because every case is different. Some lawyers claim that they can “Settle your case fast!” Sure they can, for a lower amount than your case might be worth. Don’t you think the insurance companies that deal with law firms like those know they’re looking for a fast settlement? There’s no incentive for the insurance company to offer top dollar because they know that this law firm isn’t going to take the case to trial. They’re settlers! There are some yellow pages ads that proclaim the lawyers handle everything from criminal to real estate to injury cases to malpractice matters. Be weary of a firm that claims they can do everything. In today’s legal climate it’s rare that a general practice firm can do all that extremely well. That’s why there are firms that focus exclusively on one or two areas of law, such as medical malpractice and personal injury. If you call a law firm you’ve found in the yellow pages, ask these important questions: Who will be handling my case day to day? When will I meet with the partner? Who will be negotiating my case? Who will be trying my case? How quickly are my phone calls returned? What is your experience with my type of case? How many cases do each of your attorneys handle at one time? Does the size of the lawyer’s ad mean they’re a better firm than the one with a ½ page ad or smaller ad? No. It only means that the larger ad costs a lot more (The Verizon yellow pages charges lawyers about $6,500-$7,000 per month for a full page ad. In some counties, lawyers take out a double page ad which can cost between $12,000-$15,000 PER MONTH!). That’s not a typo. That’s per month. We’ve all been trained to think that just because an ad is larger, that it must somehow correlate to how well that firm does for its’ clients. Not necessarily true. You must ask lots of questions and you must become an informed consumer before you choose to hire an attorney based upon an ad in the yellow pages. Ask the attorney you call whether they can recommend another colleague to get another opinion about your case. If they’re reluctant to do this, I suggest you look elsewhere. Why should the lawyer be afraid to recommend another good lawyer? In all likelihood the injured client will stay with them, especially when they’ve been so honest and willingly advised the client to get another opinion. Ask the attorney for references from clients he’s helped. Ask about cases he’s lost, and ask whether he’s ever had a client go to another attorney after he started their case. The lawyer you choose must be able to communicate with you and spend time explaining the legal process and what to expect down the road. I’ve never liked it when I’m handed off to a junior associate to handle my questions and the rookie has to go back to the senior partner with all of my questions. Like many of you, I appreciate personal attention- especially in a case where the injuries are severe and life altering. Having an attorney know your file as well as you do, if not better, is extremely important. When you call the lawyer’s office for an update on your case, do you really want to be asked “How do you spell your last name?” Or how about, “Uh, let me pull your file and see what the other five lawyers did on your case recently.” Or how about, “I’m with another client now, and I’ll call you back,” and you don’t get a return call for days. To me, that’s not professional service. It’s bad enough that you were injured through someone else’s wrongdoing, but you shouldn’t have to suffer the indignity of having your law firm figure out who you are when you call. Attorney Oginski has been in practice for almost 17 years as a trial lawyer in New York. In 2002, Attorney Oginski decided he could best serve his clients by opening his own office for the practice of law in cases dealing with injured victims of medical malpractice and accident cases. Having his own law firm, he is able to provide the utmost in personalized, individualized attention to each and every client. In our office, a client is not a file number. Client's are always treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. Gerry Oginski can be reached at or [email protected] or 516-487-8207.