A recent issue of Independent Training News (ITN) (PDF) published by Independent Asbestos Training Providers contains much helpful information, including an article by Steven Kazan about safe searching practices on the Internet.
Diagnosis of mesothelioma can be terrifying and puzzling at the same time. It is natural for patients or their family members to want to find some information about this quite unpronounceable disease. The first thing most people do today is go online to search for information about the disease, its treatment, its implications, and what to do. Since Google is the primary search engine most people use, it is a good example for discussion. If you type “mesothelioma” into the Google search bar, you bring up a page of links – half sponsored (that is, paid ads) across the top and down the side and half organic (earned by virtue of what the Google system thinks is useful). Of course, there are lots of law firms who advertise and some who actually earn a place on the first search page. There are usually a couple of listings for government or medical agencies like the National Institutes of Health or the Mayo Clinic. Most of the rest are “dot-org” web sites with names that look like those of non-profit public interest groups. The use of the .org URL fosters this impression, since Internet convention dictates that .org listings are in fact intended to be restricted to non-profit organizations. However, many of these sites are in fact run by or sponsored by law firms, often with no obvious disclosure of their true nature.
Some of these dot-org sites may be legitimate, but please proceed with caution. Many of these law firm sites do an excellent job of concealing their true identity, and when it is disclosed, it is almost always buried deep within the content of the disclaimer section, often in hard-to-read type, and impossible to detect unless you really know what you are looking for. This creates the “cover” which lets these lawyers say they disclosed the truth, even when they have done their very best to hide it.
Many of these sites also provide a live chat option or live phone call option which again creates the appearance of a legitimate neutral public interest information resource available to those worried about mesothelioma and looking for reliable impartial information. The truth is that these sites are nothing more than marketing tools utilized by lawyers seeking to capture the reader’s interest long enough for the lawyers to sign them up as clients, while keeping the searchers from continuing their inquiries with law firms who are honest about their identity.
Why do they do this? The Internet is really no different from a big shopping mall. Stores advertise in a variety of ways because they want to get you in the door. These merchants know that if they can’t get you into their store, they can’t make a sale. On the Internet, these lawyers know that if they can’t get you into their web site, they can’t sign you up as a client.
The message is simple: be careful when searching online – it can be dangerous out there. For every web site offering helpful information in an open and honest way, including KazanLaw.com, there are several misleading sites sponsored by lawyers. The decision on what lawyer to retain when there is a mesothelioma diagnosis is in almost every case the single most important financial decision any family will ever make. Take a moment to ask yourself whether an attorney-client relationship that is so important to you and your family should be entered into with an attorney who had to misrepresent his or her nature and trick you into the initial discussion, or with a law firm that is completely open and honest about what it is and what it does.