–Niche Marketing Run Amok

I was headed south on Interstate 91 in Hartford, Connecticut yesterday, when I looked up and saw an interesting billboard. It was one of those giant advertisements featuring an oversized “headshot” of a maverick female attorney accompanied by a clever “800” number. In huge letters, it said I was intrigued and jotted down the URL as I drove back to East Hartford. Of course, I guess it achieved its purpose since I didn’t really need to write it down. Who can forget a name like that?

This type of shameless marketing tends to upset me. Our tort system and the economics of the legal profession have all kinds of issues. In my world, I often have to absorb (through higher premiums, fees, etc.) the cost of out of control litigation. It seems as if risk management is becoming an increasingly bigger business cost.

Democractic Presidential Candidate, John Edwards, takes a lot of flak for his early career, where he racked up millions in income as a personal injury litigator. He sued a lot of companies and institutions and won huge verdicts that angered a lot of people.  I can imagine the huge billboards that might have dotted the North Carolina landscape in the 1980’s and 1990’s, with Edwards’ wide grin and gleaming teeth beaming down upon the motorists that drove by. The photo on his campaign website homepage is much more family oriented than the ones inviting clients to call, that I imagined.  

I’m not really commenting on John Edwards here. That is what popped into my head as I drove by the LadyDUI billboard. Many hard core trial attorneys have been accused of “ambulance chasing” and worse. They have been accused of preying on low income clients who have no where else to turn. They have defended shady characters under the guise of civil rights and liberties. When you hear the word DUI, you can’t help but think about the victims, and I’m not talking about the accused drunks. I’m talking about the innocent people that have been hurt or killed by drunk drivers. Defending the perpetrators is just fine because they have rights too, especially the ones that may have been wrongfully accused. It is within the bounds of our legal system, but it just doesn’t seem right to shamelessly troll for DUI clients and invite the ones who have even admitted to being drunk, or pulled over with open containers, to just call 888-LADY-DUI. I hope she doesn’t get too many calls.  

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