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"Don't wait! Corporate welfare for lawyers is great!" - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
"Don't wait! Corporate welfare for lawyers is great!"

As Emily approaches her RIT graduation later this year, I am coming up on the 30th anniversary of my final capping and gowning. Much has changed in the practice and business of law in those decades, but probably the most obvious change is the development of field of personal injury law into a major part of the profession and also the popular culture.  There always were cheesy and sleazy ads for ambulance chasers, which began in the 1970s after the Supreme Court removed most restrictions from attorney advertising. In the 1980s, Rochester had "Jim the Hammer" with a fast-talking, Leno-chinned spokesman blasting out his memorable phone number in an oft-repeated staccato; later, he did his own ads with even greater helpings of chutzpah.  ("The Hammer" eventually got the banhammer dropped on him.) 

But it wasn't until the past ten years or so that a series of Buffalo firms really ratcheted up the market for it.  The most famous, descended from an old-style practice, became household synonyms for INJURED?  They billboarded every highway for 100 miles with their balding heads; back when people actually used the Yellow Pages, their ads were on the top, bottom, side and throughout the pages themselves; and they've cornered just about every other media market to get their message out, sponsoring tv and radio traffic segments, in-game Bills injury reports, and just about any program catering to Viewers Like You If You Have A Pulse.

Alas, then came trouble. Another guy took the marketing to a new level: that of a single digit.  "Hurt in a car? Call!" was followed by his name, which conveniently rhymes with "car," and then by his seven-digit number, which consists of all fours.  Other practitioners grabbed some of the other available digits for their own vanity number, but the original INJURED? guys finally got their revenge.  They acquired the number 8, in both local area codes and from whoever assigns text numbers, and "DON'T WAIT- CALL EIGHT!" became the new tagline for this bit.

And they do it all for, what? For the endless stream of INJURED? people who are coming through their doors like a turnstile at a sporting event. (Actually, I have no firsthand knowledge of that, but I do know that even in the lower-media days of the 80s when my office was six floors down from "The Hammer's" place, he had people lined up with crutches and cervical collars every day and twice as long on Mondays.)  It's also far from cheap: they got into a battle with a former attorney of theirs a few years back, and court papers in the case revealed that this firm spends over 40 percent of its gross revenue on these high-intensity case acquisition costs).  Me? Less than one-tenth of that amount, and none of it in mass media.  So with that kind of outgo, and with your entire revenue stream based on contingent recoveries, little of it recurring business, you have to cut costs wherever you can.  One way is trying to bully your associates during their employment (the firm paid no health insurance and no professional expenses other than the bare minimum to keep them licensed) and even more after they quit or get fired (the fee splits, mostly rejected by the court, were Draconianally in favor of the firm, with those 40-plus average "acquisition costs" skimmed right off the top).

Ah, but there only so many attorneys to take advantage of- so why not the general public?


All-four Guy has a building two doors down Main Street from mine. In between was a Jehovah's Witnesses hall. "Was," because he's now bought the land, and looks to be getting ready to demolish the building.  Already, he's pissed off a number of our own lawyers, since the JW parking lot provided extra space and shorter walks for them when parking (there's a formal easement and everything allowing us to use theirs and vice versa); but he's blocked off the access to that car park and is probably going to get sued over it.

Still, why stop there?  Mister Four has gone to the local Industrial Development Agency seeking tax breaks for the $4 million rebuild of the in-between property to expand his practice:

But the project, which is set to come before the IDA board at its meeting next Friday, also is raising questions about whether tax incentives are warranted for a law firm seeking a bigger office.

The eligibility guidelines followed by all of the IDAs in Erie County generally prohibit tax breaks for professional services firms, from lawyers to accountants and doctors, largely because they serve a mostly local client base and, consequently, don’t bring much new money into a region.

is application to the IDA, contends that the project is eligible for tax breaks because most of the project – 80 percent of it – will involve back-office work, a call center, document management and national legal services that are eligible for incentives. Only 20 percent of the project will entail retail-level legal work.

Back-office work can be done anywhere in the country, and [he] noted that the firm also has considered putting the expansion in Detroit. He also noted that the incentives would offset New York’s “excessively” high taxes and help the law firm expand its presence statewide and into other parts of the country.

....He told the agency that if it does not grant it the tax breaks it is seeking, the scope of the project would be “substantially reduced,” with the Jehovah’s Witnesses church building likely being demolished but the property remaining vacant.

This sort of corporate welfare has been going on for years, especially here, where the county, city and several towns all have overlapping and often cut-throat-competing IDAs, handing out tax breaks famously for a liquor store, a donut shop and various car dealerships, none of whom are likely to pack up and move to Florida anytime soon. The state tightened the eligibility rules about a year ago, but lawyers quickly started driving Mack trucks through the "exceptions" to the limits, most recently allowing a sporting goods store the goodies for expanding its store in a neighboring county. (The chain? Named, appropriately, "Dick's.")

By using the threat of relocating to -eek- Michigan! (perhaps the only more depressing place in the country than this is, and also the home of the Bills' absentee owner), our not-so-neighborly neighbor is creating far more injury than any of his cases are filed to solve.

Best of all were a couple of the comments to that article above:

$4 million is a rounded number. It will actually cost $4,444,444.

followed by one that the other famous INJURED? guys

are asking double that amount.

It's funny. Except it's not.  Time permitting, I will attend that meeting this coming Friday, and try to get up a chant of "LET'S GO! SAY NO!"

This entry was originally posted at http://captainsblog.dreamwidth.org/181883.html. Please comment here, or there using OpenID.
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bill_sheehan From: bill_sheehan Date: January 12th, 2014 02:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
The Unindicted Co-Conspirator says that the best lawyer jokes are told by lawyers, and she should know, having worked for one of the Big Firms for almost three decades. Now I see why.

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