I recently read about a case brought against a manufacturer for the defective design of a WaveRunner. Two teenage girls, one driver and one passenger, were riding a wave runner and collided with a 30-foot speedboat. The driver of the WaveRunner sustained debilitating injuries and the passenger was killed in the accident. The verdict assigned $16,024,000 to surviving Plaintiff driver and $19,000,000 to the estate of decedent passenger, making the total verdict $39,800,000. Certainly this was a tragic event for the loved ones of these young women and justice should be sought on behalf of the young women and all those who follow them.
We often speak, however, of the inability to put a price on human life, but exorbitant verdicts such as this might send the message that actually we can. There are many lawyers out there who choose to market themselves as “rainmakers” for those who have been injured, putting out television commercials that primarily promise, “We’ll get you the cash!” Most of us became experts in the law, however, so that we could serve as advocates and counselors at law, not so that we could make people rich. What is the public to think of our profession when we are training them to see us as fast cash finders? How will we ever get rid of the bum rap lawyers have, sometimes called “ambulance chasers,” when this is how lawyers are branding themselves?
I think we can start by ensuring that we are not contributing to this image. I know some attorneys that refuse to advertise for their law firm in any way so as to keep their image as positive and professional as possible. Unless you are turning away clients by the droves, however, this strategy is probably not for you. Consider instead your branding and how you’re currently marketing yourself. Is it as a counselor at law or as a treasure hunter? Are you communicating realistic expectations for settlement amounts or promising riches? Do you see yourself as someone who will navigate your clients through the deep waters of the law or someone who just achieves a final dollar amount for your clients?
Stop and remember your first love of the legal profession and then reflect on your current identity, branding, and marketing to see if they’re lining up. If not, it may be time to make a change.