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Shortly after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank in the Gulf of Mexico on April 22, 2010, the Mississippi Bar issued a news release to caution the public about improper solicitation and unethical behavior from attorneys. George Fair, President of the Mississippi Bar, warned against predatory solicitation in his May 5th statement. “After events of this nature, it is sometimes difficult for those who may have been injured or damaged to make informed decisions about their legal rights. The Bar wants to make sure no one takes advantage of them as they try to make these decisions.” Unfortunately, during catastrophic events, those seeking to take advantage of others’ misfortune are always sure to appear. Protect yourself from predatory practices by learning about prohibited practices like solicitation and the unlicensed practice of law.

To help the public, the Bar has published a “Disaster Legal Information Guide” to answer the following questions:

· What should you expect?

· Who will protect my legal rights?

· When do I have to decide?

The selection of an attorney requires trust and confidence in the attorney’s abilities. Mississippi Supreme Court Rules regulating Mississippi lawyers prohibit a lawyer, or a non-lawyer acting on behalf of a lawyer, from soliciting employment in person, by telephone, or by email, from an individual with whom the lawyer has no prior personal or professional relationship. Only lawyers licensed to practice in Mississippi can practice law in Mississippi courts. A lawyer licensed in another state may appear in court only with the special permission of the court and in association with a Mississippi lawyer. Even with permission of the court, a lawyer licensed in another state may not be familiar enough with Mississippi laws to be an effective advocate.

Before hiring an attorney to represent your interests, be sure to do your research. You should not feel pressured to accept a settlement offer or to sign waiver that would release other parties from further liability. The Mississippi Bar also has advice on how to choose a lawyer in their Public Resources. For additional information, please visit their website or contact the Bar’s Consumer Assistance Program by mail at P.O. Box 2168, Jackson, MS 39225-2168 or by phone at (601) 948-2344. To report solicitation or other unethical behavior, you may initiate the complaint procedure by requesting a complaint form.

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