Barratry concerns itself with the improper solicitation of clients by a lawyer for profit.
I generally support barratry laws much like I support a free market. If people are not allowed to take unfair advantage, then each lawyer has a chance to effectively compete for to represent clients. It is a matter of having a level playing field.
Do not get me wrong. I have sued the Texas Bar for improperly restricting marketing, advertising and free speech. I do not believe in a blanket prohibition.
But, barratry hurts all of us. It does not just hurt us in terms of our image as lawyers. It hurts us in terms of each of us being able to compete effectively in the marketplace. You need free speech, but you do not need ambulance chasers who seek to take advantage of people.
A case in point. My daughter's boyfriend was in an auto accident. He had a concussion and a hurt leg. His car was totaled. Luckily he is alright. He was able to settle with the insurance company of the person who hit him. This accident happened at night. The next morning, while he was suffering from the concussion, a woman from a local personal injury law firm called him on his cell phone offering to represent him, claiming the law firm would do so for a lower percentage of any recovery than other law firms might. The lady felt comfortable in calling him not because of any prior relationship with the firm, as she did not mention the name of the firm or the lawyer in the phone call, but because he had a Hispanic last name. She thought that speaking with him in Spanish could establish a familial connection such that she could come over and obtain an employment contract regardless of the law.
There are some good reasons to resent the fact that personal injury lawyers are restricted from immediately contacting injury victims while insurance adjusters, who might take equal advantage of the situation, are not. I understand the argument, but the conduct of the lawyer who contacted my daughter's boyfriend was the obvious result of a system that law firm had in place to illegally solicit Hispanics, and it was wrong.
This young man did not hire the law firm. (For the record he did not hire my law firm as I do not do that kind of legal work). I tried to get him to do something about the illegal solicitation, but he would not. He wanted to tend to his injuries.
Ever since the Supreme Court cases allowing solicitation of legal clients, the states have also been allowed to reasonably regulate the practices.
I very much approve of legal advertising and marketing because when it was not allowed so-called "ambulance chasing" abounded in the shadows of the legal practice. In other words, absent marketing the only reasonable means for clients to chose attorneys was through nefarious processes. Advertising, marketing and legal solicitation allows reasonable avenues for lawyers to get their name out, to inform the public of their rights, and properly obtain business. When you see a TV spot for a lawyer trying to inform the public about the dangers of a particular drug, or the practices of insurance companies in handling hurricane claims, for example, understand that they are the heroes. Sure they may like to represent you, but they seek to first inform you. These attorneys are much different than those that operate in the netherworld of personally pestering people they know are in the need a particular legal representation.
Lawyers who do not wish to comply with the rules for legal solicitation are guilty of barratry. It is not a practice that is limited to, as the slang of ambulance chasers would suggest, personal injury attorneys.
As pointed out by The Texas Tribune, the State of Texas, along with other states, are clamping down on those practicing barratry. They have penalized the act of barratry, but they have also added civil actions that can be taken against a lawyer who illegally solicits a client.
In 2011 Texas passed a law that allows barratry victims to sue a lawyer or case runner to void an illegally solicited contract and collect any money paid to the lawyer plus damages. A person who is solicited, but does not sign a contract, can also sue for up to $10,000. It also allows for fee-shifting.
In Texas, for example, Bill Edwards is now trying to build a niche practice based upon this law. And, lawsuits have already been filed. Thomas J. Henry, and Dennis Bujnoch have also entered the field. Carbin & Shaw in San Antonio has produced an TV spot about the practice.
The prospect of suing other lawyers should not be a deterrent to you should you elect to enter this field. If you are careful in what you allege, rest assured that you will be protecting the legal profession and not harming it. This is not like a legal malpractice case where a lawyer was merely negligent. In the case of barratry the lawyer is intentionally violation the law.
As always, go on the Internet and find everything you can about the subject. It could be the practice niche for you.