How Texas Lawyers Can Avoid Barratry Claims
Though most attorneys are decent, hard-working people, a few bad apples have unfortunately sullied the reputation of the profession in the eyes of many clients. It’s all too common for attorneys to be called “ambulance chasers,” only out to make a quick buck from someone else’s misfortune.
In Texas, “ambulance chasing” is known by the legal term “barratry.” And while the majority of attorneys understand that it is ethically wrong to literally try to sign up car accident clients as soon as they’re involved in a crash, the law has a few other nuances that attorneys need to know to avoid ethical problems.
Texas Barratry Laws
In Texas, engaging in barratry can subject lawyers to ethical complaints before the state bar, civil lawsuits, and even criminal proceedings. Under civil law, victims may receive up to $10,000 from an attorney who engages in barratry. The criminal statute makes barratry a misdemeanor in the case of a first offense and felony offense for subsequent violations. A felony conviction would mean the loss of a license to practice law.
Texas Penal Code § 38.12 outlines several instances of barratry. A lawyer is engaged in barratry if, with “intent to obtain economic benefit” he or she:
- Pursues a lawsuit or claim without authorization from a client.
- Inappropriately solicits a client in-person or by telephone
- Pays, gives, offers, or advances anything of value in the hopes of inducing a client to hire him or her. The statute also bars directing this conduct toward family members of a possible client
- Accepts money or anything of value to solicit employment
While the law limits how attorneys attract may new clients, keep in mind that advertising itself is not illegal. A client will not have a barratry claim just because they didn’t like your commercial, however, attorney advertising is still subject to several rules instituted by the Texas Supreme Court, which are among the strictest in the country.
Attorneys Defending Attorneys
If you’re an attorney, any sort of claim for malpractice or misconduct can have devastating effects on your reputation. It’s important to have attorneys on your side who know to how to defend other attorneys from these claims. Campbell & Associates Law Firm, P.C. has years of experience representing attorneys accused of malpractice or ethics violation. To speak with an attorney about your case, contact our Dallas office today or call us at 972-277-8585.