Contingency fee practices are in danger. People in Washington and in your State Legislatures want to take away the rights of your clients on injuries, Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability. Your practice is essential in protecting the dignity of many deserving people.
The attack on teachers, unions, the environment and the social fabric of our society extends all the way to contingency fee law firms. Contingency fee law firms represent people in their times of need and help their clients navigate the complex system of government programs for the disabled. It is no surprise that these safety nets and the rules regulating this type of practice are also under attack.
The role of contingency fee law firms is essential. When individuals attack you for handling malpractice claims and medical malpractice cases your response should be, “if the State Prosecutors did their jobs, many class action suits would not have to be filed. If physicians turned in other doctors who did not practice properly, there would be less malpractice lawsuits. But they don’t, so the work of protecting and defending people in need is left to the private practice of contingency fee attorneys, who are the last line of defense in protecting the rights of the injured and the disabled.”
We, as a coalition of contingency fee lawyers, do not have the resources to financially compete with the paid lobbyists and corporate donors who work to take away the rights of our clients. We cannot give enough dollars to legislators to convince them to retain the current laws rather than listening to the groups who want to destroy this system.
We do, however, have numbers, and that translates in votes, and that translates into power. Contingency fee law firms should harness the power of their client base to vote for politicians that have a friendlier, more rational perspective with regard to maintaining the programs that our clients so desperately require. Use them!
STEP I: Register Your Clients to Vote
Ask every client and every prospective client if they are registered to vote. If they are not, sign them up. If you sign up new clients over the phone, send them a voter registration application in the mail. In most states you can get the voter registration forms from the Secretary of State. Obtain the forms and then make copies. Ask each client if they need voter registration forms for their spouse or children.
STEP II: Share Knowledge About Candidate Positions
It’s not enough to just register your clients. They look to their attorney for advice. The next step is to ask the candidates their position on tort law, the right to jury trial, Social Security Disability and Workers’ Compensation. Send your clients a letter or include it in your newsletter and inform them of each candidates’ positions on the issues important to your practice and their cases.
Be clear that no one should vote for a candidate on any one position-be it abortion, gun control, taxes or anything else. Their legal matter is an important consideration however, and you are the expert that can best inform them of the candidate that will best protect their rights.
When it comes to judges you have an obligation to your clients, the legal system and to society to make sure the best candidates are elected. Our clients don’t know which candidates to vote for, but you do! I was often asked if I was worried about the consequences if I endorsed a candidate who lost. The truth is I wasn’t. I was protecting the causes I believe in.
At the trial level I want to elect judges who understand the law, respect attorneys as well as the parties involved and move the cases in a judicious manner. A side benefit turned out to be that most races for judge are very close. Judges who won that did not receive my endorsement were always fair to me to show that they deserved it in the next election. Not once has there ever been a negative repercussion.
If the plaintiff’s bar exercised its muscle at the ballot box we would be powerful. The amount of votes we could generate for candidates who support our positions is staggering. Sure, money opens doors when you want to talk to a candidate. Try sending 500 letters from a representative’s constituents when you want to schedule an appointment. That talks too; especially when they receive newsletters from a lot of attorneys in their district or in their state either endorsing them or endorsing their opponent.
We cannot raise enough money to compete with the industries we are challenging. But our cause is just; our clients are deserving and our mission should not be stopped by people more interested in their bottom line than in the amount of people they are maiming and killing. Start doing something about it! Are you willing to step up, speak out and take action to begin defending the rights of your clients politically?
Image Credit: CBS News