What’s wrong with a lawyer advertising offices in two cities; multiple lawyers practicing at the firm; with combined legal experience of 100 years, representing thousands of people? Plenty…if the lawyer has only four years of experience, works as a sole practitioner, and has made the rest of it up.
Ontario lawyer John D’Alimonte found himself before the Law Society of Ontario accused of false advertising, which included his website with photos of five lawyers who were actually actors. An earlier version of the website contained photos of several Florida lawyers who Mr. D’Alimonte received referrals from after partnering with the head of the Florida firm, Howard Merricks, and connecting with an American lawyer referral service called AskGary, a company run by a non-lawyer.
But that wasn’t all….The Law Society disapproved of posted testimonials that lauded Mr. Merrick’s skill and successes although he did not work at the Ontario firm. The website also claimed that the firm’s lawyers specialized in representing injured people, although no specialization certificate had been granted to Mr. D’Alimonte.
The Law Society found that the lawyer’s behaviour constituted professional misconduct, noting that people looking for legal services need legal representation to manoeuvre through a complicated justice system and are even more vulnerable when they have suffered personal injury.
The legal tribunal also said:
“Because quality is difficult for clients to assess, it is particularly important that advertising is not misleading, confusing or deceptive…not all lawyers are the same. Clients are entitled to make choices based on expertise, experience and even price.”
It obviously benefited Mr. D’Alimonte’s legal practice to hold himself out to be more than he was, to the potential detriment of clients who were misled and deceived, the crux of his chastised misconduct.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang