Bad Attorney Advertisements, Part 3

For the third installment in my occasional series of bad attorney advertisements, I have found a television commercial.

Embedding of the video here is disabled, so you’ll have to follow this link to see a truly tacky TV ad for a lawyer. Now, you might think that a divorce lawyer would be uniquely able to produce something that could readily cast the entire legal profession into serious disrepute (and indeed, they are well-equipped to do so), the fact of the matter is that at least one other candidate for that the title of “most shameless TV ad ever” comes from that same “Hammer” guy. Frankly, this bit of trivialization of bankruptcy, while lowbrow, doesn’t really go over the top the way a lawyer using the decidedly unoriginal nickname “the Hammer” can. (This other “Hammer” guy even uses the same stock clip-art graphic of a steel hammer.)

The lack of dignity in the commercial is apparent. But this begs the question of whether good taste is actually necessary for the ad to accomplish its purpose. Maybe not — the point of the commercial is to attract business to the lawyer and he doesn’t owe any duties to the profession to make the rest of us look good. It’s hard to say whether Jim “The Hammer” Shapiro is able to discern what good taste even is, given that the commercial may well not fairly represent what he’s like in real life. Who knows, maybe he’s really a quite sedate, pleasant, and polite guy when he’s not cheesing it up for a TV spot.

But if the commercial is intended to give an idea of what he’d be like as your lawyer, I for one would rather take my business elsewhere.

Why is that? While people might be looking for a zealous advocate who will get angry on their behalf and I would too, I don’t think most clients with worthwhile cases are looking for someone whose mental health is subject to reasonable question based on their presentment on TV. Both of these commercials hint that “The Hammer” is a little bit, well, off. Particularly knowing what I know about how litigation works, I know that there is a “sweet spot” that you reach in every case, when the settlement value maximizes with respect to the work done. I don’t want a lawyer so blinded by his hatred of the evil insurance company that he does not understand when the case has reached its “sweet spot.”

Beyond which, what if I piss him off? Clearly he’s contemplated ripping peoples’ hearts out and severing their heads from their bodies, and that’s just for people who hurt his clients. What might he want to do if you did something he personally didn’t like? Maybe it’s best if I just avoid the guy altogether.

Now, I can’t fault the guy for a lack of focus. A good TV ad should have as a prominent element a clear, direct focus and I’ll admit it: Jim “The Hammer” Shapiro has achieved in this respect. One might take issue with the nuance of the focus on display. There is no pretense that what’s going on here is about “fairness” or “justice” or “compensation for the innocently hurt” or “healing injuries.” Many other personal injury ads speak to equalizing the fight between a claimant with few resources and a big, scary, powerful insurance company. Others tout the competence and aggressiveness of the attorneys whose services are being sold. Still others focus on the money that can be obtained in court, which is after all the point of personal injury law.

But here, it’s not even so much about the Benjamins, or even about zealous advocacy, as it is about revenge. For anyone who has thought about how personal injury law works on an economic level, it ought to be obvious that a 40% contingency share of revenge isn’t worth a penny, and speaking as someone who has interviewed his fair share of potential clients with worthless cases, I can assure the rest of you that the emotional intensity of a client’s desire for revenge has nearly nothing to do with the magnitude of tangible injuries for which I might conceivably recover damages on their behalf in a court. Once again, the fact that the guy went over the top makes me question his judgment and disinclines me to hire him to handle my personal injury situation.

Now, on to practical matters. You only take away one thing from a typical TV commercial and the thing to take away from an injury lawyer’s commercial is the number you should call if you’ve been hurt. Jim “The Hammer” Shapiro is so busy explaining how much hatred he has for the people you want to sue that he only leaves himself enough time to say his telephone number once. It’s easy to forget the number after the commercial is gone, because he hasn’t hammered it into your head through repetition. What I take away from this commercial is that Jim “The Hammer” Shapiro has got more than his fair share of Teh Crazee. He’s practically spitting in the camera at the end when he says “You call, I hammer!” But I’ve completely forgotten the phone number because I’m so astonished at the lack of good taste and common sense that went in to the commercial itself.

He tries to make up for it with the overall presentation. The whole commercial is a black background frame with parallel video windows in it. The graphics are changing in the right-side window, showing a series of explosions and fires, interspersed with fast-edited black-on-white graphics. But steady on the top part of the background frame is the name of Jim “The Hammer” Shapiro and stead on the bottom of the frame is the phone number.

YMMV, but I personally think this technique fails, because my eye is drawn rapidly back and forth from the image of the frothing lunatic in the left video window with the violence of the explosions in the right video window. I can’t concentrate on anything at all while watching the commercial, and my residual reaction when it’s all done is a combination of stunned incredulity at the bizarre emotional intensity of the strange man screaming at me, and fatigue in my eye muscles from bouncing my visual focus so many times between the left and right video windows. It’s too much, too fast, for me to mentally process.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.