Some Connecticut criminal defense lawyers are starting to chase business by sending advertising letters to the newly arrested. Their colleagues are condemning the practice as "sleazy," confusing to clients, and a detriment to the image of lawyers.
But although its top practitioners aren't eager to talk about it, "jail mail" is definitely becoming a fact of legal life in Connecticut. Ethics authorities say it doesn't violate professional ethics rules or Practice Book restrictions on lawyer advertising, if done the right way.
In other states, like Texas and North Carolina, it's not uncommon for a newly arrested citizen to get multiple letters from attorneys angling for business. It's been nicknamed "jail mail" because, if the recipient has yet to make bail, the letter goes to the jailhouse. The practice has not been widely used in Connecticut -- until recently.
Now, says Gerald Klein, a criminal defense lawyer with offices overlooking the state Supreme Court building, "the average person in Hartford who gets arrested for driving while intoxicated would get three or four of these letters."
One of the lawyers who sends them is Frank Canace, of Plantsville, who is also an active police officer, according to his website.
Under a red box that notes "ADVERTISING MATERIAL" the letter begins: "I have learned of your recent arrest and, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about myself and possibly offer my services to you." Canace describes his police training, which he states has enabled him to become knowledgeable about criminal and constitutional law "as well as police practices and procedures."
While expressly not guaranteeing the outcome of the case, Canace vows, in boldface italic type, "I will charge you a lower fee than any fee you have been quoted by another attorney." He lists a 24-hour emergency consultation number (his cellphone) and offers to meet on nights or weekends. Canace did not, however, respond to three calls for comment.
Another direct mailer is former Windham State's Attorney Mark Solak, who has offices in Hartford, Waterbury and a third location, according to his secretary. Solak, asked about his direct solicitation practices, merely said "no comment," and hung up.
Direct mail pioneer John O'Brien, with offices in Rockville and Manchester, also did not return requests for comment. Both O'Brien and Solak tout "EZ Pay" options.
RULES AND CONFUSION