No joke. If you’ve ever called in sick to work and flipped on the TV during the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., you’ve probably seen the annoying lawyer commercials running all day long promising to give you an “interest free loan” if you hire the lawyer to take your car accident case.

Is this ethical? Believe it or not, the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (the ethics rules for Texas lawyers) allow a lawyer to “advance or guarantee court costs, expenses of litigation or administrative proceedings, and reasonably necessary medical and living expenses.” And we pay all of our clients’ court costs and case expenses directly to the vendor out of our own budget. This is a crucial part of the case and it’s only fair that we have some “skin in the game” along with you.

But we do not give clients cash money in the form of an “advance” on living expenses or an “interest free loan.” We think that violates the spirit of the rule and is just downright in bad taste. Not to mention the fact that, at the end of the case, the client will have to pay every penny of that advance back to the lawyer. As my Mom used to say, “it’s six by one, half-dozen by the other.”

It also doesn’t say much about the lawyers offering to pay clients to hire them. Think of it this way: If you were looking for a surgeon to operate on your very serious medical condition and you found one that said “I am one of the best in my field and will do my very best. I am honest and my fees for my work are reasonable.” And then you found another doctor who said “I'll give you an "interest free loan" to let me operate on you.” Which one would you choose?