Concerns raised over increasingly sophisticated marketing by tort trial lawyers

By John Breslin | Jan 27, 2017

Trial lawyers hoping to bag as many clients as possible when launching mass tort campaigns can attend conferences where they learn about the latest marketing and data mining techniques to be used to rack up the biggest numbers possible.

Trial lawyers hoping to bag as many clients as possible when launching mass tort campaigns can attend conferences where they learn about the latest marketing and data mining techniques to be used to rack up the biggest numbers possible.

But the increasing reliance on highly professional legal marketing techniques and companies that specialize in legal marketing is raising deep concerns that "ambulance chasing" is being practiced at a much more sophisticated level.

One advocate for legal reform, Kim Stone, president at Civil Justice Association of California, said she is not surprised that trial lawyers, like other entrepreneurs, market on social media.

"California is home to some of the most pro-plaintiff lawyer rules and laws, so we attract a number of lawsuits that might not survive elsewhere,” Stone told the Northern California Record.

Stone pointed to several plaintiff lawsuits that may appear frivolous. 

“Just today I read about Chipotle being sued because a customer mistakenly thought that the 300 calories in the chorizo part of the chorizo burrito was the total amount of calories in the burrito," she said. “We in California are also home to the 'too much ice in my iced coffee' lawsuit, which was dismissed, but the 'too much foam in my latte' part was allowed to proceed! We’ve also had class-action lawsuits over granola not being natural enough, or whether olive oil was really extra virgin.”

Stone said class-action lawsuits were originally designed to correct legitimate wrongs, for example, Brown v. Board of Education was a class-action lawsuit.

“But now you’ve got these lawyer-driven lawsuits,” Stone said. "The lawyers need to find clients somewhere so I’m not surprised that they’d troll for them on social media.”

Controversy aside, mass tort campaigns will continue. AJ Reyes and Adam Casas, at the Mass Tort Made Perfect conference in Las Vegas, spoke about how lawyers can maximize their return on investment when launching a campaign to generate leads.

The attorneys gathered at the conference were told they had to stay ahead of the game and think in terms of bond investments. In other words, campaigns may be long -, mid- and short-term, all with different maturity dates.

Reyes and Casas are employed by The Sentinel Group, the mass tort division of California-based Open Jar Concepts, a marketing and advertising company.

On its website, Open Jar Concepts, based in Temecula, California, states that its work in mass tort marketing has delivered consistent, quality volume across countless torts over the last five years, emphasizing that, “Innovations in lead qualifiers has added rapid scalability in an otherwise volume challenged market. OJC's Mass Tort division, The Sentinel Group, has solidified it's branding for almost all of the burgeoning mass torts for the last two years and continues to be an operating force within this legal landscape.”

Further, the Sentinel Group is armed with proprietary lead generation technology, which it claims makes it poised to be the industry’s marketing game changer. “Our team has extensive experience developing, executing and delivering nearly every type of mass tort lead to hit the air over the last decade,” the company states.

Attorneys at the conference were told that diversification across all platforms and launching multiple campaigns to attract clients is hugely important.

But data, and how to mine it, is also crucial. Data sets must be looked at differently, depending on the campaign. For example, Xarelto cannot be compared to an IVC filter campaign, the marketing experts said.

“You guys spend a lot of money on mass torts,” Reyes said. “The last thing you want to do is drop $100,000 on an IVC campaign and then realize do not have the cases because you guys did not look at the data to see if you are actually achieving success or not.”

The lawyers were also advised to stay ahead of the game and use technology to “try to figure out [where] the industry is going to turn out five years down the road.”

The Sentinel Group has an IT team with systems to track traffic, thereby providing “reports for our clients and ourselves which we think will be relevant not just today but well into the future.”

Failure to look at generating leads months or years into the future could make or break a successful campaign as well as the firm's success in general, conference attendees were told. Diversifying a firm's portfolio is extremely important, too.

Any marketing campaign must be creative and empathetic so that people are comfortable “reaching out and asking for help.”

The attorneys were also advised not to worry too much about what happens in the first days of the campaign, with the marketing experts citing the example of corporations that set out on a path, deal with the swings and see "phenomenal results" two or three years down the line.

Outside investors are also important for campaigns, the conference attendees were told, because lawyers do not want to pause and be sitting on the sidelines.

The Sentinel Group’s expertise is identifying where best to put money for maximum return.

“We are going to pick a strategy that is going to steer the money to where it is appropriate,” the audience was told.

If a campaign appears to be faltering, the data can be mined so that money can be diverted to a place where it is needed. “We let the data paint the picture,” Reyes said.

The data is made available to clients, which they can pull and see in real time. That transparency is important to build trust, particularly when clients are spending a lot of money.

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