This afternoon brought me an email from a fellow from West Virginia. The caption indicated it might involve a new divorce matter.  I opened it to read:

“I found your name online and I wanted to send you a quick email before I called your office. If you are interested in taking on new clients or finding new cases, please take 30 seconds to read this email. You will not be disappointed.

The way our program works is simple. We have your name or firm’s name on the first page of Google within hours. We have a portfolio of high traffic family law keywords that we will optimize in your listing 24/7. You’ll be able to type in high volume search terms like Divorce Lawyer, Child Custody Lawyer, Child Support Lawyer, Family Lawyer, Adoption Lawyer and any many more.”

A few days before, I received a similar invitation to join an exclusive group who would receive referrals of personal injury cases to augment my practice.  I last did a personal injury case 35 years ago.

Would you use a surgeon who hadn’t done surgery in 35 years?  If yes, these referral networks are just for you.  If you are listening to news lately, the US government is trying to rid us of a Chinese company called Tik-Tok, which entices you with catchy videos and then sucks the data out of your computer while you are entertained.  Then they sell your information to others who bombard you with content based upon your search history.  A couple of years ago my water heater croaked, so when the plumber said $1,000, I went online to see what the actual price was for this device.  For the next two months, I could not open my computer without being given the chance to acquire a new water heater.  It was easy to turn down these invitations as I had already bought the replacement and I have found that one water heater is enough, thank you.

If you are looking up the law online, you will be given many opportunities to find lawyers who have operators standing by to take your call 24/7.  This may be a convenience, but those names are there because someone is paying for it.  The more the lawyer pays the more exposure to potential clients he or she gets.  If you experienced sciatic pain, would you choose your surgeon based on the advertisement?  Is the lawyer on the back cover of the phone book or the back of the bus always the best lawyer?  I have represented some back of the bus lawyers.  Some are excellent, but the bus is not really an indicator.

If you need a lawyer, ask around.  Yes, you are to some degree buying a pig in a poke, but realize that online research often yields a very bad fit because the fellow who contacted me from West Virginia has only one need.  To get me to pay him to post ads somewhere in exchange for money I am supposed to pay him.  He’s the modern day matchmaker (Yenta in Yiddish).  His job is to marry you to the lawyer who pays him.  Your happiness is not on his radar.  The matchmaker’s fee is coming out of someone’s pocket.  Either the lawyer if the client doesn’t take the bait or the client if the client does take the bait.  Understand, lawyers are not stupid.  If you are a client coming from a referral service you are going to pay a higher rate than the average bear so that the lawyer can recover the cost of having someone fish for clients on the internet.