But it turns out that those late-night lawyers may not deserve the scorn that they get. In Sunlight and Settlement Mills, Nora Freeman Engstrom argues that firms like the ones that advertise late at night have developed practice models that achieve many of the aims that reformers have for no-fault accident compensation schemes. They deliver compensation cheaply and quickly, because they settle almost every claim and nearly never go to court. They resolve claims predictably and consistently, on account of cozy relationships with insurance adjusters that lead to a shared sense as to what different sorts of claims are worth. And perhaps most important, they increase access to justice, offering representation to clients with meritorious claims who would otherwise not seek lawyers or find ones willing to pursue their low-value claims.
The story Engstrom tells about late-night law firms is not all rosy, however. They process claims so fast that they hardly screen clients, and presumably pursue more fraudulent claims as a result. Their rush to settle cases leaves many clients undercompensated, and the problem grows with the extent of the client’s injuries. They often rely on paralegals and other non-lawyers to handle settlement negotiations, running afoul of ethics rules. And they claim fees that look high in light of the cookie-cutter nature of their work.
Hershovitz, Scott. "Late Night Law Firms." Review of "Sunlight and Settlement Mills." N. F. Engstrom. N. Y. U. L. Rev. 86, no. 4 (2011): 805-86. Jotwell: Torts (2013).