In the legal community, we have all heard the word “Runners” a/k/a Ambulance Chasers whereby a non lawyer is hired by an Attorney to actively seek business for an Attorney or Law Firm, usually involving personal injury cases and accidents. The business of running was used aggressively by many attorneys, but two (2) attorneys in particular were master minds at this scheme; Thomas C. Sinowski and Steven F. Freedman. Sinowski and Freedman went toe to toe with the Georgia State Bar for approximately ten (10) years about this type of practice until they were finally disbarred in 2011.
On July 1 House Bill 828 was voted into law now known as O.C.G.A. Section 33-24-53 that defines “running” and how attorneys and runners can be penalized for this unethical and illegal practice. The reason behind the new law is so that consumers who have been involved in an accident or the like have time to research and choose their attorney without having someone banging on the door aggressively seeking business.
This practice of running makes our profession look bad and it is not good for consumers. Now, the penalties for ambulance chasers and the attorneys that use them are criminal ranging from misdemeanor to felony offenses that carry jail time, fines, potential disbarment, and further action by the State Bar of Georgia against the offenders. Prior to the new law, the only recourse seemed to be a Bar complaint and it was not a swift procedure as demonstrated by the antics of attorneys Sinowski and Freedman.
When I began practicing law in 1994, 20 years ago, it was unethical for attorneys to even advertise. That changed about 5 years into my practice whereby an attorney could solicit business through the mail, but the mailing had to be in a specific manner and such mailings usually targeted criminal offenders as attorneys, as well as the general public, had access to information about who had been arrested and would then write a letter soliciting business from that potential sector.
Not long after, it was no longer unethical to advertise in other ways and then we began seeing attorneys appear in the yellow pages. Now, most attorneys still rely on word of mouth to generate business, but usually you will see an attorney using another method as well such as the internet to promote their practice. The internet still gives the consumer a chance to research attorneys without having attorneys soliciting business from them and it is on the consumer’s time line.
At Julie A. Rice, Attorney at Law, & Affiliates, we do not believe in the practice of using runners, never have, and never will. We believe that the consumer has the right to choose his or her attorney or law firm on his or her terms and what best fits for them. If you are ever approached by an ambulance chaser if you are involved in an accident, then you can report that person to the district attorney and the district attorney is sure to follow the lead.
You may also contact the State Bar of Georgia to report such unlawful and unethical activity. You may also Contact Us for more information on how to report this type of criminal activity as we are here to serve and assist you in any way that we can.