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December 1, 2013

Lawyer Advertising
I am barraged by testimonial ads on TV. “I received $150,000 from my auto accident from attorney _____,” one after another. I do not see how these ads help any potential client make a decision on choosing an attorney. The testimony leaves out many material facts, such as policy limit, coverages that were available, extent and nature of injury, and whether that figure includes property damage and PIP, to name a few.

If the ad stated the client had received $150,000 by being paid the tortfeasor’s 100k liability policy limit and 50k from their own 50k UM coverage for a soft tissue injury with 4 percent permanency from a chiropractor, OK, that would tell the potential client that attorney has something to offer. Or, conversely, those two insurance adjusters are the ones he would want handling his claim.

But is the client receiving $150,000 from a $1 million commercial trucking policy coverage with a $5 million excess policy behind it? And is that client a mother of four, age 32, now quadriplegic, and can no longer work at her $120,000 a year job? Then a potential client might say, “That attorney blew it!”

I think it is a mistake for recovery figures to be quoted without a basis for the recovery being stated. I would urge the Bar to rethink testimonials in TV advertising. That or make the advertising attorney post on his website all the facts of the case along with contact information for his testifying client.

Not to mention that advertising settlement dollar amounts confirm to the public that plaintiff attorneys are the aggressive riffraff that the defense bar and insurance companies claim we are.

Plaintiff attorneys should instead be viewed by the public as the gatekeepers of justice, not the vultures of the courthouse. We should advertise how long we fought the defense; how we appealed the case, funding the appeal out of our own pocket; how we fought the good fight and spoke out eloquently on behalf of our clients, seeking justice, not pieces of silver.

Frank Shaughnessy
Palm Bay

I couldn’t help but notice the November 15 front page story regarding advertising rules and LinkedIn. While I am sure the Standing Committee on Advertising has done some valuable and important work for The Florida Bar over the years, it is sad to see such focus on relatively minor issues — like whether a social networking site mislabels specialties — while rampant, outrageous billboard and media advertising continues to be permitted in Florida for a whole range of flimsy “lawyer referral services” such as 800-411-PAIN and law firms who claim they are “aggressive” or showcase specific dollar awards and imply that similar results can be obtained for other Floridians.

It would be refreshing indeed if our Florida Bar and its committees tackled the real, and politically difficult, issues that truly impact the reputation and image of the Bar, rather than spending time on issues that will make little to no difference to any of us.

Chris Hinsley

Rethink the System?
I scratch my head at the concept of the November 15 letter titled “Rethink the System.” The writer there would serve justice not by the adversarial system but by the scientific method. Huh? Does he suggest that every dispute be resolved by polygraph tests and arbitrators?

Arbitrators are as subject to personal ideological conditioning as much as are judges, jurors, legislators, and litigants. And, for the most part, witnesses do not lie. The driver who insists that his speedometer showed him driving within the speed limit will believe what he says, just as a police officer is honest when he testifies that he has made hundreds of speeding stops and is accurate at estimating the speed of a moving vehicle. The scientist would call it a tie. The shooter will believe he is telling the truth when he claims that he feared for his life when he fired his weapon in self-defense, and the polygraph will support him. And what scientist can determine the true value of a work of art by a lesser known sculptor, in order to determine the proper degree of a larceny charge?

True, money gives an advantage in litigation, but should the state government support less wealthy parties, or require the adverse party to do so, as professional sports leagues tax teams with the largest payroll? Totally unrelated to my personal political philosophy, I think not.

Adapting Winston Churchill’s famous quotation about democracy, “The adversary system is the worst form of justice except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Alfred Sklaver
Delray Beach

Legal Discrimination
I applaud the letter from Kellie Baker, in the November 1 News calling for the elimination of legal discrimination.

In that same vein, I have two questions: Why are men ineligible for the “Women, Infants, Children” program? And why are only sons, and not daughters, required to register for the draft?

Richard Katzman
Campbell, CA

Recently, there have been several letters to the editor concerning the alleged discrimination of men-only divorce firms. I just would like to point out an interesting twist to the story. Here’s a law firm that I recently came across in downtown Orlando the other day: “Women’s Trial Group — Attorneys at Law.”

The sign “Women’s” is pink.

Luis Basagoitia

[Revised: 11-24-2017]