When I teach lawyer advertising and solicitation, I often pose the following hypothetical to my students: Is the use of social media like Facebook to reach potential clients permissible solicitation under the precedent of In re Primus (where the Supreme Court held that North Carolina could not bar an ACLU attorney from holding gatherings to inform women about their civil rights after they had been sterilized on condition of receiving public medical benefits) and Ohralk v. Ohio State Bar Association (decided the same day as Primus, with the Supreme Court holding that an ambulance chaser could be barred from soliciting clients at the hospital bedside). My hypothetical is now a reality–from Bloomberg News comes this article on how law firms are using Facebook to solicit medical victims (h/t Professor Elizabeth Tippett of Oregon Law, whose scholarship focuses on lawyer advertising and marketing, among other topics).
For ambulance chasers, persistence and a phone book just don’t cut it anymore. Law firms, which once relied on television commercials, billboards, and cold calling numbers in the white pages to find plaintiffs for medical lawsuits, have begun to embrace technology. To locate their ideal pharma victims more quickly and at lower costs, they’re using data compiled from Facebook, marketing firms, and public sources, with help from digital bounty hunters like Tim Burd.