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Solicitation of Clients by Runners

Burdine & Brown Sept. 4, 2019

Have you been solicited or been contacted by “runner” who tells you that you should be represented by a particular lawyer? If that is the case, watch out if this happens to you!

For years the State Bar of Georgia, the private organization that regulates us lawyers, has known about this awful practice. The Georgia Legislature has recently passed a law regarding this practice, prohibiting this practice. However, the State Bar is weak and the Law was watered down. The State Bar cannot seem to be able to control its members regarding this matter.

There is a new President of the State Bar of Georgia, Darrell Sutton. He is younger lawyer who seems to be aggressively willing to address this matter. In a recent speech, as reported by the Georgia Bar Journal, he had the following to say:

“Personal injury “case runners” are nothing new to the legal profession. The use of these true “ambulance chasers” on the part of some personal injury lawyers has for decades been a prevalent practice.

But gone are the days when runners operate in the shadows. Even though the practice is illegal in Georgia and stands in violation of State Bar rules about client solicitation, I have listened as lawyers from Athens to savannah to Atlanta shared first-hand accounts of lawyers boasting about their use of the practice. So brash have some of our members become that they even employ hospital personnel themselves to generate personal injury clients.

The illegal, unprofessional and unethical form of client solicitation casts a bad light on the legal profession. It makes us the worst caricature of ourselves. All the while, it operates to the detriment of the public, whose best interests we are sworn to serve.

Determining the best method to combat this insidious form of client solicitation will be a committee led by Board Member Michael Geoffroy. Comprised of plaintiff personal injury lawyers (and a few of their defense counterparts), hospital representatives, members of the judiciary, prosecutors (and an assistant attorney general), this committee will study the issue, working to develop a public awareness campaign.

Educating lawyers about permissible client solicitation is important. Even more important is the development of materials that will alert those suffering from a personal injury and their families about the practice of illegal client solicitation, how to identify it and what to so when they encounter it.”

Sutton, Darrell. “Remarks of Darrell Sutton to the Board of Governors.” Georgia Bar Journal, Aug. 2019, pp. 40–41.

Establishing a Committee will merely just kick the matter down the road. I am quite disappointed again with the State Bar of Georgia. My clients are telling me of stories like being offered free transportation to the new lawyer's office, hospital and home meetings with the “runner”, the law firm's representative, and gifts given as an incentive to sign up, all of which should raise a red flag with you, the injured person. It seems that the only way to stop this bad practice is to spread the word and refuse to let the runners and lawyers influence you. These runners get paid a percentage or bonus if you sign up with their lawyer/ employer. What kind of services do you expect to receive? Surely not services that meet your needs.

Do tell your friends and relatives to NOT fall for the tactics of the runners. At least, look at the lawyer's website for reviews from real clients and people. Stay away from the lawyers who pay for an ad to be higher up on Google. The quality of their work is likewise suspect.

I have been practicing Law for nearly 41 years in the area injury law (workers' compensation, auto accidents, and social security disability). I provide quality legal services because I care to serve those who are injured. “Client First” has always been my model and I have been blessed by this creed. But the real key to my success is who I serve, and that is for you to discover when you call my office and meet with me. I look forward to hearing from you.