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Lawyer red flags: What to look for when choosing an attorney

November 4, 2016 by Steven M. Gursten

Warning: How to tell if a lawyer might not be best for you after a car or truck accident


Doing your own research when hiring an attorney is important. I recently wondered aloud why some people who will spend hours researching a television or a car, would decide to hire a lawyer from a billboard or a 20-second commercial spot.

But knowing who not to hire is just as important as knowing the factors and considerations that go into hiring the best lawyer to protect you and your family after a serious automobile accident.

Below are some factors that may indicate a Michigan accident lawyer may not be best choice for handling your lawsuit.

Lawyer referral networks

Be wary of national lawyer referral organizations. These often involve pay-for-play and sometimes direct kickbacks between the doctors or marketing people and the lawyers they try to refer you.

Endorsements and accolades about being the greatest lawyer, etc.

Look out for self-proclaimed accolades and endorsements, such as “best, top, leading,” that are not verified by recognized and independent third parties who evaluate attorneys. It’s astonishing to see the words that many lawyers now put in quotes on their own websites to describe themselves these days.

These lawyers are “the best” and “the top” and “the greatest.” Well, maybe not. As I discussed in my recent blog post, “Why it’s important to do more research on hiring your attorney than you do when buying your toaster,” third-party verifications in Michigan include:

  • Michigan Lawyers Weekly and Detroit Legal News. Check these publications for articles about the attorney and cases he or she has handled.
  • Avvo: This legal website has a 10/10 score that reflects the attorney’s legal ability, success and peer recognition. Each attorney will have a profile on Avvo, which also can include biographical information and reviews from clients.
  • Martindale-Hubbell: Provides an AV-Rating for legal ability and ethics.

Lots of advertising

There are some very good lawyers who advertise on television, but most aren’t. Read the reviews of how these law firms actually treat clients. Most have terrible reviews for a reason – they earn them. Again, for most (not all), television lawyers run law firms more akin to mills, churning cases for quick settlements and often for far less than what these cases may be worth.

On the other hand, in every market and in every field of law there are some lawyers who are considered universally to be at the very top of their niche. These lawyers do not advertise because they don’t need to. They earn new clients from positive word-of-mouth reviews from happy clients and from other respected attorneys.

Ambulance chasing lawyers (Especially in Detroit)

Has an attorney sent you a package of materials, called you, or had a hired proxy for his law firm come knock on your door or visit you in your hospital room after a car accident – unsolicited? This is happening every day in Michigan. Sadly, it has become out of control, and is tied into the PIP fraud problem we also see in cities like Detroit.

Steer clear! These attorneys are breaking the law in Michigan, and this is illegal attorney solicitation.  These lawyers are usually unqualified attorneys, who are looking to prey on vulnerable and less sophisticated auto accident victims. Most of these lawyers use accident victims to run up medical bills for doctors, chiropractors or physical therapy facilities they’re in cahoots with. They they take a large percentage of the medical bills as an attorney fee.

I detest these lawyers. They prey on our most vulnerable in the days following a serious car accident, and they give all lawyers and the entire legal profession a black eye. Here are some blog posts I’ve written on the topic:

For more information, you can order our free guide: “How to Choose the Right Lawyer: Breaking through the sea of legal advertising to find the best answers,” or visit our special Michigan Auto Law website section on finding a lawyer.

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