Thursday, July 26, 2007

Unsolicited attorney mailings to prospective clients

One of my clients got a letter from a local lawyer that I thought was inappropriate. Images of the letter (with information about both the lawyer and the client whited out) are at the bottom (click on them to see them enlarged). Let's take a look and see what's wrong with this:

1. Notice the enlarged fonts, boldface, and underlining. Maybe it's just me, but lawyers shouldn't shout. The only time I think we use bold in a letter is when we tell our clients that courts do not accept personal checks, and that they need to send a money order.

2. This is one of the big problems -- How did this lawyer know my client had a ticket? We've heard from one source that this lawyer does FOIL requests on all the local courts, but I don't know that for certain. Disciplinary Rule 1200-8(h) requires that he was supposed to disclose how he obtained my client's identity and learned of his legal need. It's not in the letter. I sent a letter asking for this information and he hasn't responded to that either.

3. Another big problem is the substantial exaggerations. The biggest one is where he says that if you plead guilty to a 6-point speeding ticket the total cost will be $3800. The $3800 includes:
a: $355 max fine
-- The fine range is $90-300 and there is a $55 surcharge. Technically correct, but he leaves out the minimum.

b: $300 DMV Assessment
-- This one is dead-on -- unless the client already has points.

c: $3145 insurance hike (estimated over 3 years)
-- Um ... where on earth did he get this figure? I'm guessing my client, a really nice retired fellow, pays about $500 a year now on his insurance. If his rates got bumped at all, he'd probably be looking at a 30% increase for 3 years, for a total increase of about $450. I'm guessing too, but I'll bet my guess is a lot better, and it's not an unreasonable scare tactic.

The funniest thing is where he estimates with a reduction to a speed of 75 in a 65. Notice for fines he now has $150 with (+surcharge if applicable). I don't know where the surcharge is inapplicable, and you have to wonder why it's left out here but included in the plead guilty estimate. Funnier still is his estimate of the insurance hike at $1550 for 3 years. Under Insurance Law 2335, your rates cannot be raised for a speed of 15 mph or less over the limit. The insurance hike for this reduction is zero.

I'm eager to see comments on this. Please fire away!

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