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Lawyers Masquerade Online as VA Hospitals to Attract Plaintiffs

VA Though Overlawyered often exposes the lighter side of things legal, yesterday it picked up a story about some pretty deplorable lawyer advertising tactics. Fortune had a lengthy article about a handful of law firms that had created Web sites with urls like www.vamedicalcenterpaloalto.com and used a Red Cross-like logo (though in the pictured screen capture from one of the sites, the cross appears to be orange) in an attempt to recruit asbestos plaintiffs.

The sites reportedly listed three firms as "sponsors": Seeger Weiss, the Flood Law Office and the Law Office of Melinda J. Helbock. It was only after the Fortune reporter, Roger Parloff, began making inquiries of the law firms that disclaimers indicating the sites were not affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs were added. Then the sites were taken down entirely.

Though Parloff's calls to the "hotline" number listed on the sites was answered by someone who purported to be a legal assistant at Seeger Weiss, Christpher Seeger disclaimed all knowledge of the supposed link between the sites and his firm and -- this is priceless -- "blamed the problem on his firm's newly opened Los Angeles office."

It doesn't take a legal ethics expert to detect a problem with this kind of advertising. But Parloff interviewed two of them anyway: NYU's Stephen Gillers and Columbia's William H. Simon, who concurred that the sites were misleading.

One interesting tidbit almost lost in the Fortune article: the sites were brought to Parloff's attention by a rival asbestos lawyer who insisted on anonymity.

Posted by Eric Lipman on April 2, 2010 at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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