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Posted On January 13, 2020 Current Events and News

Lawyers and Lawsuits in the Public Eye

The times when you most need a lawyer – divorce, injury, custody, criminal charges – are usually undesirable events. It’s no wonder, then, that these past and potential negative events can cloud public opinion of lawyers and lawsuits. 

Legal matters are inevitable in life, but what people often forget is that attorneys are not the cause of your legal problems. Instead, they are the allies you have on your side through these difficult, intimidating, and threatening times. 

Although there is a wide range of perspectives on lawyers and lawsuits, public opinion as a whole reflects this reality. In an effort to delve into and clear up the falsehood of these very common, particularly negative beliefs, we asked over 1,000 members of the public their honest opinions on a number of relevant matters.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and take a look at what we learned. Armed with a thorough and accurate understanding of public opinion, we can begin shedding light on the truth about lawyers and lawsuits and defeat misguided apprehension toward the legal industry. 

About Console and Associates

Console and Associates is a personal injury law firm based in Marlton, NJ. Since the firm’s inception in 1994, its team of dedicated attorneys and support staff, led by founder and managing attorney Richard P. Console, Jr., has won tens of millions of dollars for victims of car accidents, medical malpractice, slip and fall injuries, and other injury matters throughout New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania. 

Survey Methodology

In order to obtain the information needed to understand how people perceive these types of legal services – and why – we took a survey. We questioned a little over 1,000 people to see what their true thoughts are regarding legal services pertaining to accidents and injuries. From expectations to reality, here are the most surprising discoveries we made from collecting and analyzing this data. 

Survey Highlights

The responses we received from this survey revealed some interesting and commonly shared opinions.

Allow us to begin by pointing out some of the more notable myths, facts, and misconceptions so we can speak a bit more in terms of truth and the guidance provided to the public by such legal services.

graph what do you think about lawsuits

  • The consensus is that lawyers are indeed useful – 66% of those surveyed made it known that they believe lawyers to be useful for those unexpected situations that can arise in life. Only a very small 5% stated they actually hate lawyers altogether. A very slim percentage were also indifferent to the matter in general.
  • In general, this stigma surrounding lawyers has remained the same over time – Over time, those polled do not believe the public’s perception of lawyers has not changed very much, with the same general outlook surrounding the subject. A small percentage believes them to always be hated despite the circumstance, without any chance for change in the near future.
  • Many who experienced a car accident did not hire a lawyer even if they were injured – Out of those who were surveyed, a whopping 15% stated they could have used a lawyer for actual car accident injuries they experienced, but chose not to. A large number have never even been in that circumstance. Finally, 10% of those polled have in fact used legal services, aka lawsuits, due to a car crash-related injury.
  • America isn’t as “sue-happy” as people think it is – Despite the widely-held notion that Americans are “sue-happy” and love to sue any person for any reason at all – gladly abandoning any personal responsibility for their own actions and safety – actual public opinion refutes that. The majority of people surveyed – more than 75 percent – have never been involved in a lawsuit, either as the party suing or as the party being sued. Further, while a good chunk of responses revealed negative opinions of lawsuits – either in general or as being filed too frequently and without basis – the majority of respondents held a moderate, insightful view that lawsuits are fine if used appropriately. More than 52% of respondents shared this perspective, viewing lawsuits as a necessary tool for justice under certain circumstances.
  • Reputation is everything – The majority, or 51% of those surveyed to be exact, declared that if they needed a lawyer, they would seek a referral from friends and/or family before hiring anyone. With plenty of reviews and public case information available via the internet, you will find what you need to make an educated decision that produces a positive outcome.
  • Success in the profession is necessary – The number-one qualification clients look for when hiring a lawyer is a history of proven results. Clients want their attorneys to have an excellent record of success – or, more specifically, a high rate of case victories.
  • Intelligence above all else – Above any other characteristic, those looking for legal help are, of course, searching for brains, plain and simple. By this we mean that having an intelligent attorney is what matters most to clients searching for legal representation.
  • Lawyers appear unattainable due to their fees and the process seems exhausting – While there are plenty of instances in which legal help is a necessity, many people are apprehensive to hire an attorney because they believe lawyers are simply unaffordable. As we mentioned previously, it is commonly believed that the legal process is too much of a hassle – and therefore, not worth it. Even if they were injured, 3.4% of participants think it is immoral to sue someone. Beyond that, everyone assumes you must spend a fortune to hire a successful lawyer. This, too, is a myth, especially in the practice of personal injury law, in which contingency fee representation is common.

Public opinion on the usefulness of lawyers

Knowing that lawyers are often the butt of jokes and the subjects of gripes, we started our survey by asking respondents how they honestly feel about lawyers. The majority – 67.98 percent – held a levelheaded view of the profession, agreeing that lawyers “are useful in certain situations.” 

Chart How do you feel about lawyers

The next most popular opinion about attorneys is indifference, which 16.37 percent of respondents reported. Nearly three times as many people reported liking lawyers as hating lawyers, accounting for 12.35% and 4.30% of survey responses, respectively. 

The encouraging reality this data illustrates is that there’s only a small fraction of the public that truly has a negative perception of attorneys – no matter how many jokes or secondhand horror stories they hear. 

Views of lawyers remain unchanged

When asked whether they believed public opinion of lawyers has changed over time, the most popular response, accounting for 38.82% of responses, was that “people think the same as always about lawyers.” 

chart do you think public perception of lawyers has changed over time

Among those who believe public opinion has changed, 27.41% think people hate lawyers more now than they used to, while 23.85 percent feel that people like lawyers more now. Nearly 10 percent of the respondents believe that lawyers are widely hated now and have always been hated, despite the percentage of respondents who reported personally hating lawyers being just 4.30%. 

Many victims opted not to sue despite injuries

Among survey takers who reported being in an accident, most chose not to sue. 

chart have you ever sued someone in a car accident

The response “could have sued but didn’t” – for a car accident – accounted for 15.72% of responses. Just over 10% of those surveyed reported having sued someone in a car accident, and 2.15% said they have sued on more than one occasion. 

The majority of respondents, 71.84%, have never sued but also did not indicate, as the “could have sued but didn’t” respondents did, that they had ever been in a position to sue. 

In our decades of experience, we have seen that there are numerous reasons why a person who is injured may choose not to sue. Everything from a moral opposition to lawsuits to the belief that their injuries are not severe enough or the legal process is too complicated could be a factor that prevents victims from getting the justice they deserve. 

Most respondents haven’t been sued and take a moderate view of lawsuits

When speaking about personal injury lawsuits, it’s almost inevitable the phrase “sue-happy” will get thrown around – but just how litigious are people, really? 

Lawsuit involvement 

Our survey showed that most respondents – 75.58% – have never been involved in a lawsuit before. Far from being an epidemic of frivolous lawsuits, there’s compelling evidence that most people have no involvement in a lawsuit, period. 

chart have you ever been involved in a lawsuit

Among those who have been involved in a lawsuit, 11.60% won, 3.55% lost, and 1.96% were involved in an ongoing case. For 7.30% of our respondents, the lawsuit was against them, as the defendant, rather than on their behalf as a plaintiff. 

Opinion of lawsuits

Despite this widespread talk of America being a sue-happy nation, public opinion on the subject of lawsuits is much more sensible than you might think. The majority of respondents, 52.67%, feel that there’s nothing wrong with lawsuits when used under appropriate circumstances. 

chart what do you think about lawsuits

Only 5.61% of respondents reported liking lawsuits – for the reasoning that they promote a fair and just society – which undermines this whole argument that mass numbers of people are so eager to file a lawsuit. Just 2.90% of respondents hate lawsuits and feel that they are bad without regard to the circumstances. More than one-third of respondents did worry that lawsuits are filed too frequently and often inappropriately. 

Personal recommendations are the leading way clients find attorneys

Asking people you know for a referral would be the first choice of the majority of respondents if they needed legal help. For 51.64% of respondents, a good, old-fashioned personal recommendation trumps all other channels that could motivate them to hire a particular attorney. 

chart if you were injured in an accident and decided to sue, how would you find an attorney

Another 22.92% wouldn’t have to look for a lawyer in the case of an accident, since they already know one, but nearly as many – 21.33% – would search for a lawyer on Google. 

Although common, TV commercials don’t appear to be exceptionally effective means of advertising for lawyers, because just 2.34% of survey respondents would contact an attorney based on their TV advertisements. Social media has an even lower rate of attracting clients, with just 1.78% of all respondents saying they would find an accident attorney through social media. 

Clients want to see a high success rate from their lawyers

In our survey, we choose six of the qualifications law firms tend to highlight most when marketing their services and asked respondents to rank those qualifications. Proven results is the qualification that received the most #1 rankings, with 29.28% of respondents rating that qualification the highest. 

chart what qualification would be most important when choosing an attorney

The next three most highly ranked qualifications were ranked so closely that they are all within a single percentage point of each other. Positive reviews were the most impressive qualifications for 20.39% of respondents, with experience ranked first by 19.83 percent of people and trustworthiness ranked first by 19.55%. 

The qualifications with the least impact on attorney hiring choices 

Although we all want to work with someone who is approachable and compassionate, just 6.08% of respondents would choose a lawyer based on these qualifications. For many respondents – 30.50% and 24.23%, respectively – approachable and compassionate took the fifth and sixth spots on the list of which qualities matter most in choosing an attorney. 

Similarly, just 4.86% of respondents found testimonials of prior clients to be the most compelling qualification. However, 20.67% ranked this factor as the fifth most important qualification, and 42.38% of respondents ranked them as the least important qualification. 

When it comes to injury attorneys, proven results means a history or numerical rate of cases won or of large amounts of compensation recovered. For people interested in hiring a lawyer, the end results are what matter the most. The public sees a law firm’s past record of success as the most meaningful predictor of future results. 

Respondents ranked intelligence as the trait they most look for in a lawyer

How, exactly, do attorneys achieve these proven results? According to popular opinion, the best attorney is a smart attorney.

chart what trait do you think makes a good attorney

Once again, we asked respondents to rank six traits in order of importance pertaining to what makes a good attorney. The response “smart” barely outshone the response of “honest,” winning over 39.10% and 37.89% of #1 ranking spots, respectively. 

Other traits were ranked as the most important at much lower rates. Just 7.11% of respondents want their attorneys to be “aggressive” (toward the other side) above all else, and 6.45% want an attorney who is “tough” most of all. For 5.43% of respondents, “compassionate” attorneys are the most in-demand, while just 4.02% look for a lawyer who is “ruthless.” 

More than half of respondents buy into the myth that lawyers are too expensive

When we asked over 1,000 people what would make them most reluctant to hire a lawyer, more than 51% cited the perceived cost – “too much money” – as the top obstacle to getting legal representation. 

chart why might you be reluctant to contact an attorney

Not knowing whether or not they have a good case would be enough to deter 17.40% of respondents from even reaching out to contact an attorney. In almost equal numbers, respondents said that wouldn’t want the hassle of a lawsuit (13.84%) or are “not that type of person” who sues (13.66%). Just 4.02% said that the extremely negative view of attorneys as being “all thieves” was the reason they wouldn’t contact a lawyer. 

The real cost of hiring a personal injury lawyer

What’s particularly striking about this finding is that, objectively, attorneys don’t charge unaffordable rates to pursue personal injury claims. 

Injury lawsuits are generally handled on a contingency fee basis, in which the attorney handling the claim gets a percentage of the money he or she recovers for clients. This type of billing arrangement for legal representation is sometimes called “no win, no fee” representation. 

Usually, the plaintiff pays nothing upfront for legal representation services or for the costs – like court filing fees or expert witness services – that arise in pursuing the claim. If the plaint wins, those costs come out of the money won, as do the percentage-based attorneys’ fees. Otherwise, the lawyer who unsuccessfully pursues a case never gets reimbursed either for those costs or for their work on the lawsuit. 

If the number-one factor that’s holding people back from contacting an attorney when they need one is all a misconception, it means that many people – surely hundreds, and potentially thousands – are missing out on getting the help they need all because of rumors, myths, and misunderstandings.