California Trial Lawyers’ Influence on Legal Landscape Exposed

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Two New Reports Unveil Disturbing Trends in Legal Services Advertising and Plaintiffs’ Firms’ Political Contributions

Today, the American Tort Reform Association unveiled two eye-opening reports illuminating the pervasive influence of California trial lawyers on the state’s legal landscape and political arena.

These comprehensive analyses on legal services advertising and the extensive campaign contributions made by plaintiffs’ lawyers shed light on the intersection of law, politics, and public opinion.

The first report delves into the evolving trends in legal services advertising over the past four years while the second analyzes California campaign contributions made by plaintiffs’ lawyers since 2017.

“These reports unveil a troubling reality wherein trial lawyers wield significant influence over our legal and political institutions,” Tiger Joyce, president of ATRA said. “The significant campaign contributions from plaintiffs’ firms raise concerns about the potential influence on legislative and judicial decisions. Meanwhile, trial lawyers run aggressive ad campaigns, often utilizing dubious claims, to solicit clients.”

Legal Services Advertising Trends

In 2023, Californians saw or heard more than 2.3 million local legal services advertisements. Advertisers spent more than $238.8 million on these ads across print, digital, radio, outdoor, and spot TV mediums in California’s 14 media markets.

This reflects a 66% increase in overall spending when compared with 2019, far outpacing inflation. The quantity of local legal services ads in California also increased more than 21% since 2019.

Personal injury claims dominated the advertising landscape, constituting more than 75% of all local legal services ads in California in 2023. This trend underscores the aggressive marketing tactics employed by trial lawyers, particularly in areas such as vehicle and motorcycle accidents. The top advertisers were Jacoby & Meyers, Sweet James, Morgan & Morgan, Jacob Emrani, Law Brothers, Dominguez Law, Los Defensores, and BD&J Attorneys. Combined, these eight firms spent more than $103 million on nearly 920,000 local legal services ads.

“Trial lawyers continue to pump significant money into these ad buys because, armed with more clients, they can boost settlements and payouts, ultimately raking in larger contingency fees for themselves,” Joyce said. “Then, they strategically invest in candidates who may further expand liability or create new avenues to sue.”

Campaign Contributions from Trial Lawyers

ATRA’s second report offers a revealing glimpse into plaintiffs’ firms’ extensive campaign contributions. Since 2017, the Top 20 plaintiffs’ firms that donated the most to political campaigns made combined donations totaling more than $15.473 million.

The Law Offices of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger lead the pack with more than $2.5 million in contributions to California-based candidates and committees. Notably, several other firms also made significant donations, with four firms – Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy; Knight Law Group; Singleton Schreiber; and, Altair Law – surpassing the $1 million mark. Seven additional firms contributed between $600,000 and $1 million.

Some top campaign donors also are top legal services advertisers, including Singleton Schreiber which spent more than $1.7 million on more than 16,000 ads in 2023 alone.

More than 43% of all donations from the Top 20 firms analyzed – or $6.7 million – were made to committees affiliated with the Consumer Attorneys of California, the state’s leading advocacy group for trial lawyers. California Governor Gavin Newsom also received nearly $2 million in contributions from these firms.

Beyond the political realm, ATRA underscores the economic and individual impacts of excessive tort costs in California. Every Californian pays a “tort tax” of nearly $2,300 annually due to these costs — among the Top 4 highest in the nation. This also contributes to a loss of more than 825,000 jobs statewide each year.

“As Californians grapple with the implications of excessive tort costs and the pervasive influence of trial lawyers, it’s critical to seek fair and just legal reforms,” Joyce said. “A solid future for California’s civil justice system demands a commitment to transparency, accountability, and the pursuit of justice for all.”

For a comprehensive overview of the reports, including detailed methodology and additional insights, visit

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