As a profession, we need to reevaluate our approach to the BP Oil Spill.
I heard a Gulf Shores, Alabama, business owner say this week that he had gotten over 30 phone calls from attorneys seeking to represent him. His businesses rely heavily, almost entirely, on tourism at the beach. The anticipation of the amount of damages he will likely suffer from the BP oil spill in the Gulf is driving attorneys to ignore the Rules of Professional Conduct that goven our advertising conduct. Specifically, Alabama lawyers are skirting the rules which prohibit or restrict direct solicitation of clients who are not close friends, family or past clients. In the process, these lawyers are also creating angry and anti-trial attorney individuals who feel suffocated by lawyer solicitations.
This has not gone unnoticed by the media. Broadcast and other media sources are painting the plaintiff’s bar with broad strokes, lambasting the "sharks in the water" who are those attorneys that are swarming like flies around the soon-to-be carrion they expect will be left in the wake of the oil spill.
We are not all ambulance chasers. The majority of trial attorneys do aspire to more noble goals. Despite what the media would have you believe, the plaintiff’s Bar does not, as a rule, seek to capitalize on other’s injuries. Yes, the practice of law is a business, and yes, the purpose of business is to make money. The original and underlying purpose of our industry, however, is to seek justice. From the trial attorney’s perspective, it is to hold those accountable whose conduct causes injury. If we kept this purpose in mind, our advertising goals, and public perception of our profession, would likely follow suit.
As a life-long resident of Mobile, Alabama, frequent sunbather on Alabama’s white-sandy shores and regular consumer of the fruits of the efforts of Gulf of Mexico fishermen, I, too want to see BP and its counterparts held accountable for their destructive conduct and oversights. And I, too, resent the deluge of solicitations by lawyers from across the nation as the most devastating and tragic event plays out in my backyard.