Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Those lawyers on TV.

Recently I started noticing how many law professionals advertise on American TV. Different firms place their spots often within one show. There’s nothing memorable about them, nothing that makes them stand out. The logos change but the talking heads say mostly the same things. Ads blend together and feel  very generic. Don’t get me wrong, the attorneys on screen feel and look professional and eloquent. And it’s particularly exciting to me when someone I went to school with is on my screen, dressed up and talking like a real lawyer. And that happens more and more often. They all say that they understand what it’s like to be in a pickle. The stress of losing your home or what it must be feel like to be in an accident or have bills. The problem I would have as a client though is not knowing enough about the person talking to me. Empathy is good as a starting point, but what is it about that particular attorney? Why should I trust him? As a client I don’t care about a brand, although some of those are often fifteen, twenty years old  or more. When I talk to a lawyer I talk to him not his brand. When he takes on a case it’s his skillset- not his firms tradition that will be applied. Why do feel like in some of those ads people hide behind history, a history I might add, some of those new attorneys had no hand in establishing?

As lawyers in America, even more so here in Florida, we are limited as to how we can advertise. We cannot use our track record to boost our image and tell people about our “ability to win cases”. Because no case is predictable, no outcome is guaranteed and one can differ from the next. We generally can’t compare ourselves to other attorneys or use client statements because that would give a false implication of how good we are.  And we really have to watch out how we phrase it when we talk about our practice areas, so it doesn’t seem like we are “specializing” in something, when it’s the Bar that certifies specializations. It really limits what and how you can talk about.  But still, I would like to hear from those individual attorneys. There has to be a reason why they were chosen for that particular ad. Why did they choose to practice that area of law or decide to become a lawyer all together? What are their passions and characteristics that made them feel they are right for this? I’d have to be sold on a little more than just a face and a name. Is there some cause that is driving them? Is there a story? And I mean a different kind of story that the one in an ad I saw few days ago, when a young attorney implied he’d be a good match for me because both of his parents are established lawyers and all through law school when he had problem understanding something all he had to do is call them. Well then, perhaps I should just call them well…. instead of him? The funny thing is there is an obvious benefit in talking about tradition and family values and history, but the commercial wasn’t going there. And clearly he is a knowledgeable attorney in his own right. But the ad failed to highlight that. 

Now let me tell you what drives me, since it might be years if ever before you see me on TV. I want to help people with disabilities because I understand what it’s like. To not know what rights you have, to be dismissed and brushed aside. I relate not simply because I’m in a wheelchair and I use it to rise above it, but because I’ve had those things happen to me. And I know how powerless it makes you feel because I felt powerless like that. And I want to do something about it, for myself, for others. This sounds na├»ve when I say it out loud but I want to leave the world a little better of a place than I found it. And I don’t know why I was given the high level of functionality that I have, which apparently is rare, but I  want to do good and something that matters to someone.

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