One of the most controversial issues that comes up among Seattle DUI Attorneys is whether it is ethical to send solicitation letters in the mail to individuals charged with a DUI. In case you’re not familiar with this practice. There are a growing number of DUI Attorneys in Washington State, mostly King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties that will get the list of people that have an arraignment for a DUI and send them a letter soliciting their business.
Recently one of these Attorneys sent a letter to my house. Now I’m not charged with a DUI nor is my wife, but somehow I received one. So it got me thinking why those Attorneys do and why I do not. When I first started practicing law there was only one DUI attorney I was aware of who did this. But recently it seems like more and more DUI Attorneys are resorting to this practice. From what I gather many of these DUI Attorneys are younger ones, recent law school graduates, or attorneys who were recently laid off and are trying to start their criminal law practice and generate business. Personally, for my practice, I choose not to send these letters for a variety of reasons.
First, as I noted above it is extremely controversial among the Defense Attorney bar and some even view it as poor form. My reputation as a Defense Attorney is very important to me and my practice. Obviously, it is important when it comes to Prosecutors, Judges, and law enforcement but it is especially important with the Defense bar as well. Many Attorneys take it personally when a client receives one of these solicitation letters and hold a grudge or find the Attorney is acting in bad taste. The last thing I want to do is make enemies within the community I work. To me that is just stupid business.
Secondly, I personally believe it is an invasion of privacy that I would rather not cross. I don’t know what it is like to be charged with a crime, but I imagine it is not a pleasant feeling. The last thing I want to do as an Attorney is send someone a letter reminding them of this mistake and oh by they way hire me to represent you on it.
And lastly this kind of goes along with the privacy issue but I don’t want to be the cause of any family discourse. A few years ago I represented a client charged with a DUI. He was having some marital problems he and his wife were working through and did not tell the wife of his DUI arrest. When his DUI case was filed, I tried to file my notice of appearance as soon as possible in an effort to thwart these Attorneys from sending their solicitation letters. Unfortunately, they did not seem to care or maybe didn’t verify the client already had counsel because he received some letters and his wife found out. Obviously, that didn’t go over well and the idea he had of telling his wife once their relationship was more stable didn’t work. Now me as a DUI Attorney I would rather not be responsible for such issues, but that is just me.
Now you’re probably wondering if this practice is so controversial than why do these Attorneys do it and how do they get away wit it. Well first of all it is not prohibited by the Rules of Professional Conduct. I believe there State Bar had a hearing way back when and has determined this is not direct solicitation and therefore is not a violation of the ethics rules. Secondly this is a competitive market we DUI Attorneys practice in. There are lots of competitors out there and you have to figure out a way to put food on the table. For younger attorneys especially or those that do not get referrals from former clients, other Defense Attorneys, Prosecutors, Judges, or even law enforcement they need to find a way to make money. Fortunately for me my practice is about 90% referral based and the other 10% come from clients who find me through my website or this blog so I don’t have to resort to such tactics.
Now I know many DUI Attorneys who get really heated when it comes to this issue. But as long as the State Bar feels it is an okay practice than there is not much that can be done regardless of how unprofessional it is.
About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI Attorney in Seattle, WA. His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other traffic offenses. He is currently rated as one of the best Seattle DUI Attorneys by Avvo, and named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine in DUI Defense. An honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive.