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How law firms use Facebook to track down potential clients

The Columbus Dispatch recently ran an interesting article titled "How law firms use Facebook, other data to track down medical victims."

As the article indicates, this practice is more prevalent in mass tort litigaiton (oftentimes lawsuits involving claims of dangerous drugs or defective medical devices), not individual injury cases. Basically law firms are hiring marketing firms and digital bounty hunters to identify people most likely to be exposed to a particular drug or medical treatment. These law firms then target their adversting regarding the lawsuit to these individuals or, in some cases, directly contact these individuals using cold calling techniques, in order to get them on board as clients.

This article raises a couple of interesting topics. First, the issue of attorney-solicitations, or "ambulance-chasers." There is no question that lawyers have become increasingly aggressive and sophisticated in adversting for business. Lawyer advertising can be some of the most obnoxious adverstising out there, such as ridiculous commercials on T.V. or annoying letters and text messages following even minor car crashes. We at Rourke & Blumenthal do not advertise. We get the overwhelming majority of our cases from attorney or client referrals. But we acknowledge other law firms have different business models. I am always interested to hear what people think about attorney adverstising.

But how far is too far? Like basically all other businesses out there, the digital world now allows for attorneys to narrow down their marketing efforts. But it sure doesn't feel right knowing that I may be targeted for certain advertisements, especially lawsuit advertising, just because I may "like" on Facebook a certain cancer support group. On the flip side, many people who are targeted by these law firms would probably never know about his/her potential cause of action without these targeting efforts by law firms. The fear is that this type of advertising is often poorly regulated and some attorneys may violate ethical rules in order to get clients.

These are some potential issues to consider when hiring a lawyer. We would love to hear your thoughts.