On October 4, 2011 Davis Law Group's client relations manager, Mischelle Weedman-Davis wrote and published a story on the firm's blog describing the 'No Fee For Kids' marketing program that has been adopted by some attorneys across the country. There may be several attorneys using this type of marketing program in an ethical manner or in a sincere effort to help the families of injured children. However there may be some attorneys who are using this program as a classic "bait-and-switch" marketing campaign.
Mischelle was recently asked to terminate her membership in a lawyer practice management and business group after voicing her honest criticism of this potential marketing scheme and how it may be used unethically by some attorneys whose only goal is to attract more child injury cases and then charge a fee later by filing a lawsuit when litigation may not be in the child's best interests. The article didn't name any attorneys that are using the program either ethically or unethically. The point of the article was to bring attention to a potentially harmful situation involving self-serving attorneys who may be more interested in attracting cases and earning fees than serving the best interests of an injured child.
After initally removing the blog post from the website, Mischelle ultimately decided that reposting the article would be in the public intrest.
The blog post is below.
Originally posted on October 4, 2011.
Free Lawyer For Children: The 'No Fee For Kids' Fairy Tale
Think You're Getting a Good Deal With A ‘No Fee for Kids' Lawyer? Maybe Not!
Most personal injury law firms, such as Davis Law Group, work on a contingency fee basis. This means that clients do not pay the attorney an upfront fee, retainer or monthly fees, but instead the lawyer agrees to wait until the end of the case to get paid. Contingency fee means that there is no fee until the personal injury lawyer successfully recovers fair compensation on behalf of your injury case.
Recently some law firms in the Seattle area have begun advertising ‘No Fees for Kids.' The implied promise is that no attorney's fees of any kind are ever charged for any client that was a minor at the time of their accident. But be careful. This advertising scheme may not be what it appears to be. Be sure to read the fine print. 'No fee' applies only to those cases in which a lawsuit does not need to be filed. If the lawyer determines, for any reason, later that a lawsuit must be filed then the regular contingency fee kicks in.
Bait and Switch? Maybe.
Like a retailer's "loss leader," this offer is certainly intended to draw a lot of other paying clients. But the ‘No Fee for Kids' program is sometimes used as a classic ‘bait and switch' tactic. Some, not all, of the lawyers using the ‘No Fee for Kids' scheme simply want to attract the cases, sign them up, and will later make the switch by invoking the ‘fee if lawsuit is filed' clause of the attorney-client fee agreement.
Some use it to attract cases with the full knowledge that they will at some point tell the child's family that a lawsuit must be filed as part of the ‘legal strategy' in the case--they do this so they can get their regular attorney's fee.
But a lawsuit does not always need to be filed. Every injury claim does not need a lawsuit. In fact, many child injury claims do not need a lawsuit since the insurance companies involved know that juries are sympathetic to children and would much rather settle the case than take it to trial.
Why Would They Do This? Is 'No Fee For Kids' Ethical?
Many attorneys that are using this as a 'bait and switch' marketing program are less experienced or less successful than other lawyers in their area. They need to use schemes such as this to attract clients and build their business. Without these advertising programs they simply wouldn't be able to attract clients. Do you really want to work with an attorney that has to resort to such tactics in order to get clients?
When used as a 'bait and switch' it isn't ethical. But it isn't illegal either. The parents or guardians of the injured child are told that there will be a fee if a lawsuit must be filed and they sign an agreement when they engage in a relationship with the lawyer. The fact that there will be a fee if a lawsuit is filed is fully disclosed. However, the attorneys will often down-play the need for a lawsuit in the initial meetings-even though they know they will recommend filing a lawsuit later.
Before signing up for 'No Fee for Kids' do your homework. Find out how and why the attorney is using the program--are they using it eithically? Find out if the attorney is sincere.
Find a lawyer that has the skills, knowledge and expertise to best represent your child.