Based upon a true story:
Last week, my wife of 35 years was driving to the store and was hit by another car. The police came to my house to take me to the hospital to see her. She’s been there ever since. We don’t think she will make it.
Each day I drive or am driven to the hospital by our children. I stay there as long as I can. I just had surgery myself. So I need to come home to try to rest in between rushing back to be with her.
I have never felt so scared, alone, vulnerable and incredibly sad. My grief and fear for her is overwhelming.
I manage to walk with a cane out to the mailbox. There’s a letter from a law firm. I don’t know them. It is addressed to my wife. I open it. They want to represent her. The letter comes with forms and a retainer agreement, all neatly organized in a glossy folder. I close it, slightly stunned. How do they know what has happened to my darling.
I walk back to the house. Sit in my chair and gaze at the packet. I don’t know what to make of it. I can hardly face what is happening to my wife. I don’t want to be thinking of lawyers. How did they find out. How did they find us. I feel like my wounds are open for the world to see. I need to cry in peace. Not in front of my wife. Not in front of our children. Not in front of a lawyer I don’t know. I want to cry alone.
The next day I go back to the hospital. When I return home, there is another piece of mail from the law firm. This time it is a certificate for a free accident report. I don’t want to see a report. I don’t want to think of lawyers. I want to think of my wife.
A few more days pass. My hope is dwindling that the love of my life will survive this collision. The law firm keeps sending me more materials. Even a CD rom. I am growing angry and upset. I didn’t respond to the first letter, or the second, or the third or the fourth why do they keep sending me more letters.
For over a decade the American Association for Justice has maintained a code of conduct for members. The code provides:
- No AAJ member shall personally, or through a representative, contact any party, or an aggrieved survivor, in an attempt to solicit a potential client when there has been no request for such contact from the injured party, an aggrieved survivor, or a relative of either, or the injured parties’ union representative.
- No AAJ member shall go to the scene of an event which caused injury unless requested to do so by an interested party, an aggrieved survivor, a relative of either, or by an attorney representing an injured party or survivor.
- No AAJ member shall initiate a television appearance or initiate a comment to any news media concerning an event causing injury within 10 days of the event unless the member forgoes any financial return from the compensation of those injured or killed, provided , however, that an individual designated by a bar association may initiate such media contact to communicate such position.
- No AAJ member shall personally, or through an associate attorney, file a complaint with a specific addendum amount unless required by local rules of court. if such amount is stated, it shall be based upon good faith evaluation of facts which the member can demonstrate.
- No AAJ member shall personally, or through a representative, make representations of trial experience or past results of litigation either of which is in any way false or misleading.
- No AAJ member shall personally, or through a representative, initiate personal contact with a potential client (who is not a client, former client, relative or close personal friend of the attorney) for the purpose of advising that individual of the possibility of an unrecognized legal claim for damages unless the member forgoes any financial interest in the compensation of the injured party.
- No AAJ member shall file or maintain a frivolous suit, issue, or position. However, no AAJ member should refrain from urging or arguing any suit, issue, or position that he believes in good faith to have merit.
- The AAJ Board of Governors has condemned attorneys or legal clinics who advertise for clients in personal injury cases and who have no intention of handling the cases themselves, but do so for the sole purpose of brokering the case to other attorneys. Any AAJ member who enters a contract of representation on behalf of a claimant shall, at the time of retention, fully advise the client, in writing, of all relationships with other attorneys who will be involved in the representation, the role each attorney shall play, and the proposed division of fees among them. the client shall also be promptly advised of all changes affecting the representation.
- No AAJ member shall knowingly accept a referral from a person, whether an AAJ member or not, who obtained the representation by conduct which this code prohibits.
In Washington, our state bar association rules do not prohibit direct attorney solicitation of clients. In Washington our trial lawyers association does not have a code of conduct similar to AAJ condemning such conduct.
In my opinion, direct solicitation of clients by lawyers – is gross. The few firms who do this – taint the public perception all of us who do not.
Photo: The five pieces of mail described above.