In Search of the Aggrieved
You’ve seen or heard the commercials, usually spoken in an unsettling voiceover: “Were you injured by the [drug/tool/device] between 2005 and 2008? You could be entitled to thousands of dollars in a legal settlement.”
These ads seek plaintiffs for class-action lawsuits. Former attorney Noah Seiler thinks he has a more effective approach. Even with their (often) low production quality, these commercials can be “very expensive,” Seiler says. “And they’re not targeted as well as more modern marketing can be.”
This past summer, Seiler opened Sift Legal Marketing, which offers an intriguing way to attract lead plaintiffs—advertising on social media. Based (where else?) in Minneapolis’ North Loop, it grew out of Seiler’s work at a Twin Cities marketing agency, which he joined after three unsatisfying years as a public defender and a business attorney.
While at the digital agency, Seiler met a class-action attorney who bemoaned the challenge of finding suitable plaintiffs: “I saw that a lot of what we were doing could be applied to this.”
Social media sites collect a cornucopia of user data—and let marketers like Sift Legal pick and choose the fruit. If a law firm is assembling, say, a product liability case, it can look for Facebook or Instagram users most likely to have bought that product based on characteristics like age, geographical location, and gender. People who follow certain relevant pages also might be targeted.
Not all attorneys approve. “That sort of service, in my view, represents the underbelly of the practice,” says Karl Cambronne, a partner at Minneapolis-based Chestnut Cambronne PA whose focus is class-action litigation. A better approach for a firm to follow, Cambronne argues, is to develop a good reputation. That way, when people believe they’ve been wronged by a product or service, they’ll call you on their own initiative.
Seiler’s rebuttal? “Individuals and consumers don’t have time to know every law and investigate every single product or service that they use.” Class-action attorneys need plaintiffs in order to keep companies responsible, he says.