Choosing a Lawyer

Finding a lawyer is not difficult; they are on television daily, in the newspaper, yellow pages and on the internet. The problem is not finding a lawyer; it is choosing the right lawyer for your particular case or situation.

When I need to find a lawyer for a client in another state or jurisdiction where I do not know anyone, I go to what I consider the only proven rating system for lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directory. Started 140 years ago, Martindale-Hubbell lists every lawyer by geographic location and provides basic biographical information, such as where they went to school and when they graduated, as well as their rating. Lawyers and firms can also pay for more detailed biograhical information which indicates the areas of law in which they practice, but the real value of Martindale is the peer review rating system. Lawyers are rated by the other rated lawyers and the judges in the area where they practice. The judges and lawyers periodically receive a questionaire with a list of names. The system is simple. The first question is whether a lawyer has very high ethical standards. If not, the lawyer receives no rating by Martindale-Hubbell. If he or she has high ethical standards, he or she is rated for legal ability and may receive a rating of  a, b, c, or no rating. For example, in Fayette County there are  only a few  lawyers with a rating. It is a high standard. My bv rating can be found at: http://www.martindale.com/Paul-O-Clay-Jr/1784440-lawyer.htm

There are also a number of websites on the internet which list lawyers. The number one is www.lawyers.com which is affiliated with and linked to Martindale-Hubbell.

What about television advertisements by lawyers? Television advertisements are unreliable. They provide no real information and are like all advertising; nothing but attempts to get your attention. Sometimes young lawyers  try to create a name and name recognition by bombarding the public with telelvision ads. But the cost of advertising significantly increases a lawyer’s office overhead, and sometimes influences the lawyer’s desire to get cases settled to create cash flow to pay for the advertising.  Unfortunately, having practiced for thirtyfive years, I have seen this happen all too often. The impact of lawyers settling cases for less than they should, despite what they say in their ads, has been that  some insurance adjusters have decreased settlement offers in certain cases in our area because they say that “ such and such a firm” (on television constantly with a catchy jingle and their phone number) settled a similiar case or cases for a low amount.  While I believe it is possible for me to counter the trends created by this  conduct with preparation and  experience, this conduct has not been good for injured people or the public.

Finally, what about the lawyer who calls you on the telephone after an accident? Recently, a man called and told me that his wife was in intensive care five days after an accident in which a tractor trailer ran a traffic light and struck her vehicle broadside. Before he called me, he had five lawyers calling him, pressuring him to hire them. One told him that the intersection was filmed by a traffic camera and that he only had five days to request a copy or the tape would be erased. After several conversations with the Deparment of Highways, I learned that there was only a traffic counter at the intersection, no camera! Such tactics drove this man to call me for straight answers because he needed  straightforward answers. After several days I was retained and represented these good people through  various insurance issues and ultimately settlement of the case, without  high pressure, deceptive tactics.

The Rules of Professional Conduct for West Virginia lawyers are clear.  Rule 7.3 provides:

“(a) A lawyer shall not by in-person or telephone contact solicit professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship when a motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain.”

see http://www.wvodc.org/infolegalservices.htm

Further, any written correspondence is required to have the words “Advertising Material” both on the outside of the envelope and in the written material inside.

A lawyer who is not family or already your lawyer who calls you after an accident with even partial motive to obtain employment in your case is violating the ethical standards required by the profession and should be reported to the State Bar for disciplinary action. see www.wvbar.org  Please do not be offended if I do not call you after an accident in your family. While I may wish to reach out to you, and would be glad to represent you, I believe you should be allowed to make your decision concerning choosing counsel without any pressure whatsoever.

I sincerely hope that this information is of help to you in choosing or selecting a lawyer. Please do not hesitate to contact me for further information.