And I suppose that where there is competition there will also be cheaters. We’ve certainly seen evidence of that before with rumors of “Runners ” in Erie. Today I learned of another form of the same sort of competitive cheating that I’ve often suspected of occurring but never before had such direct confirmation. It’s called in-person solicitation and it’s prohibited by the Pennsylvania Attorneys’ Rules of Ethics.
What is “in person solicitation?” It’s when a lawyer (or someone acting at a lawyer’s direction) contacts someone who is not yet a client and attempts to persuade them to hire that lawyer. The idea is that clients should not be pressured by “ambulance chasers” to sign up with a lawyer. Rather, the hope is that prospective clients will take their time, research the available lawyers and choose the one that is right for the client and the case.
This sort of client chasing is prohibited by Rule 7.3 of the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. The rule carves out certain exceptions. For example, it is allowable for a Pennsylvania lawyer to directly solicit former clients, relatives and close personal friends. Pennsylvania attorneys may also send direct written communications and they are permitted to solicit directly so long as their own pecuniary gain is not “a significant motive.” Otherwise, however, no direct calls or approaches are permitted.
So, what did I recently learn? I represent a man who is, by nature, private. He had a terrible medical result that we believe was caused by the negligence of a local physician. His friends and family know about his condition. They don’t know that he has already hired the Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyers at Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C..
Apparently, a well-meaning friend mentioned the man’s condition to a local, well-known Erie injury attorney and that lawyer has been calling our client regularly for weeks. According to my client, the other Erie injury lawyer has been calling so often that our client felt harassed. Does this lawyer have a family, close personal or former professional relationship with our client? Not that we can tell.
The calls have now stopped but the message is clear. In today’s personal injury world, there are lawyers who are willing to take ethical shortcuts to get ahead.
What every prospective client should know is at least this: 1. Pennsylvania lawyers who directly solicit (without a prior relationship) are cheating and 2. they should not hire a cheating lawyer unless they’re comfortable with putting their best interests in the hands of a cheat.
Believe me when I say that I have no objection to competition. If you’re reading this, you no doubt know that we put a lot of effort into competing in the relevant marketplace. I want clients to know about us and about the alternatives available to them. However, we will always pay attention to the rules and do our best to make sure that our marketing is ethical, dignified and helpful. We’ll leave the shortcuts to others.
Contact an Erie Injury Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in northwest Pennsylvania, you should contact at least a couple of experienced injury lawyers. Almost all of us offer free consults and it is well worth the investment of your time to make sure you’re comfortable with your prospective lawyer before you make the commitment of entrusting your case to that lawyer.
For a free consult with a Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C. lawyer, call 814-833-7100 or toll free 814-833-7100. We’ll set a time that is convenient for you and if your injuries keep you from traveling, we’ll come to you. Like most every other injury lawyer, we offer contingent fee agreements, which means you won’t have to pay a fee unless we obtain a recovery for you.