Weitz & Luxenberg Cautions the Public on the Use of Disreputable Lawyer-Finder Web sites
A message about the dangers of some lawyer Web sites
The United States has the highest number of Internet users in the world, with Nielsen/NetRatings reporting there were 216 million Web surfers as of December 2007, or 71.7 percent of the population.
As more and more Americans turn to the Web for information, a growing number of them are using it to find legal counsel. The law firm of Weitz & Luxenberg P.C. would like to inform the public of the dangers of so-called "referral sites" that offer to help locate, assess, and select attorneys for people. Having little accountability, those Web pages, which spring up seemingly overnight, are often untrustworthy.
"Nothing can replace going directly to a legitimate law firm's Web site and developing a relationship directly," said Gary Klein, head of the Negligence Litigation Unit at Weitz & Luxenberg. Klein's unit handles a variety of litigations, including labor law, brain and birth defect injuries, product liability, firefighter and police cases, municipal liability, nursing home neglect, and work/occupational hazards.
"Referral sites frequently forward your submitted information--often confidential--to the highest bidder, a website that's willing to pay more for generated leads," added Klein. "Clients need to be very cautious when dealing with such entities."
A typical lawyer-finder referral site gathers an individual's name and the specifics of his or her case, and then forwards that information to a lawyer who will subsequently make contact. The truth behind these sites is that they are fueled by a grab-bag assortment of attorneys--some reputable, and some not--who pay for each client lead they receive.
These sites have little invested in whether the potential client is actually connected with the legal counsel that can best litigate his or her case. In truth, the attorney who receives a person's information from a referral site may be entirely inexperienced in the area of law to which their case pertains. It is possible that the lawyer may have never even brought that type of suit to trial. And while some referral sites make the claim that their attorneys are "prescreened," often, this merely means they have been verified as licensed to practice law.
Another trick referral sites employ is to give their Web pages the appearance of being a law firm website. Many clients who have asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma, for example, are routinely besieged by fake websites claiming to be home to lawyers specializing in mesothelioma verdicts. There are a multitude of those "Mesothelioma Lawyer" fronts online.
Before providing personal information, prospective clients should click deep below the surface of those sites to ascertain whether they are contacting actual attorneys--or just salespeople eager to funnel a potentially lucrative case to an unknown entity.
Weitz & Luxenberg encourages those who have opted to contact a lawyer through the Internet to go directly to a legitimate law firm website, or to contact the Web pages of their local bar association. In the end, it is the potential client who knows who is best to represent them. We encourage those seeking representation to establish a relationship with an attorney personally, instead of using the middlemen behind referral sites. They may not have your best interests at heart.
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