Jeffrey M. Liggio
Ruminations on advertising and being a fiduciary
I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately, to Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami, Tampa… and it seems that in every major city, there are the same billboards, showing some smiling individual with the tag line that their lawyer got them X number of dollars! Of course the lawyer is different , depending on which city the billboard is located in.
Let’s be very clear… Every case is different: every client is a different human being, the factual circumstances are different, the extent of injuries is different, who is at fault is different, whether there is adequate insurance is different. All of that and more combine to make each case unique.
Remember the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is”?
Simply because some other human being, obtained a settlement, (FYI the fine print in those ads suggests that the numbers don’t don’t disclose how much the injured victim received after paying the medical bills, the attorneys fees and costs, etc…)does not mean that you will also. To think other wise is ludicrous.
Do you think that perhaps, that there is an incentive for the advertising lawyers to settle on less favorable terms, since they have to keep feeding the advertising budget on the backs of the clients?
I’ve been bouncing around the Florida Courts for almost 34 years now. Although I am still learning, I think I’ve developed a pretty good idea of what it takes to successfully, and ethically represent a client. While we are successful in the majority of our cases, we are forthright and direct with all of our clients, that we do not win every case.
What a client gets from us, is direct and unfiltered advice, and an ethical oath that their interests are more important than ours. We are fiduciaries for our clients. first.last, and foremost.
Finally, over and above our duty to our clients, is our duty and responsibility to the justice system itself. My career goal is, and always was, to leave the law when I’m finished better than I found it because of my efforts.
With that, I’m going to get off the soapbox now, but I thought you might to read like what the Florida Supreme Court wrote in Boca Burger, Inc., v. Forum, 912 So.2d 561, 571 (Fla. 2005):
“The heart of all legal ethics is in the lawyer’s duty of candor to a tribunal. It is an exacting duty with an imposing burden. Unlike many provisions of the disciplinary rules, which rely on the court or an opposing lawyer for their invocation, the duty of candor depends on self-regulation; every lawyer must spontaneously disclose contrary authority to a tribunal. It is counter-intuitive, cutting against the lawyer’s principal role as an advocate. It also operates most inconveniently-that is, when victory seems within grasp. But it is precisely because of these things that the duty is so necessary.
“Although we have an adversary system of justice, it is one founded on the rule of law. Simply because our system is adversarial does not make it unconcerned with outcomes. Might does not make right, at least in the courtroom. We do not accept the notion that outcomes should depend on who is the most powerful, most eloquent, best dressed, most devious and most persistent with the last word-or, for that matter, who is able to misdirect a judge. American civil justice is so designed that established rules of law will be applied and enforced to insure that justice be rightly done….”