Finding a Qualified Lawyer for Your Case

Little Rock Medical Malpractice Lawyer Serving All of Arkansas


I get a lot of comments from people who hate advertising by lawyers. You know the ads I mean: the ones with some screaming lunatic who has given himself a catchy nickname and says that he will “fight for you” while waving around a hammer or some other tool.  Or the ones with ambulances or pictures of people in hospital beds. You can’t watch TV without seeing some ad by lawyers who are suing over some drug or another. And you can’t drive down the road without seeing billboard after billboard for lawyers who claim they are the best” or the “toughest” or the “boss”. As a lawyer who represents many injured clients, I find many of these ads an embarrassment to the profession--and worse, totally dishonest. In every big city in America, some of the lawyers who advertise the most for personal injury cases are the least qualified. Some of the lawyers you see on TV and in your newspapers have never actually tried a case in court. You can imagine the kind of results these people get when they deal with sophisticated insurance carriers that know all about their lack of experience.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that these ads are protected by the First Amendment, and so the state Bar Association in each state can’t get them stopped. In Texas, the State Bar Association does have rules preventing the worst and most dishonest type of ads. For example, you cannot claim to have special expertise that you don’t have, and you can’t mislead the public about the results you have gotten in past cases. In some states the State Bar Association takes some of the guesswork out of hiring a lawyer by “certifying” lawyers in several areas of expertise: personal injury trial lawyers, criminal lawyers, bankruptcy lawyers and family lawyers, for example, all will have a certification process in states that certify lawyers as having a particular expertise. Texas has a process where lawyers can become “board certified specialists” in different areas of the law. Arkansas does not have such a process. In states like Texas where a “board certification” process exists, it is similar to the certification process for medical specialties, where every specialty has its own overseeing board which administers specialized tests, checks qualifications and issues certifications of competence in that field. To become a board certified trial lawyer in Texas, for example, you must prove that you have experience trying many lawsuits involving serious amounts of money, you must pass a specialized (and difficult) written exam, and you must be recommended for certification by both other lawyers and by judges who have actually seen you handle a lawsuit. That's better than relying on silly ads about hammers, lions, cowboys and strong arms.

In both medicine and in law, once you have the basic license you are legally allowed to practice in any specialty—but that doesn’t mean you should. For example, nobody should ever ask me to represent them in a serious criminal matter because I simply do not have the experience to do so. It would be like asking your family doctor to handle a kidney transplant: he could legally do so, but he should refer you to someone who specializes in surgery instead.

Unfortunately, a slick TV or newspaper ad can make it seem that a lawyer (or a doctor, or anyone else for that matter) has competence he doesn’t. The moral: if you need a lawyer, and you see an ad that looks good to you, check the fine print, and ask some pointed questions. After all, you wouldn’t let just any doctor do your kidney transplant--you’d want to know whether he had done them before, and whether he was any good at it. You should do the same kind of research before you hire anyone to handle your divorce, or your will, or your medical malpractice case. As for those irritating ads, I suggest you do the same thing you do when other irritating ads come on—turn down the volume, turn the channel, or go get something to eat.