He's Attorney James Sokolove

By Francis Storrs | Boston Magazine |

If the average American were to classify members of the legal profession the way biologists have constructed a taxonomy of the animal kingdom, the proud white-shoe counsel would be an eagle; the slick entertainment lawyer, a shark. The personal-injury attorney—way at the bottom of the chart—would be some sort of primordial ooze. He is the much-derided ambulance chaser whose frivolous lawsuits drive doctors from their calling, the slip-and-fall trial lawyer to blame for out-of-control insurance premiums. He is the reason takeout coffee cups come with warning labels.

And among personal-injury lawyers, nobody ranks higher than Newton’s Jim Sokolove. Or maybe it’s lower. Either way, his is a singular perch in a field where a premium is placed on staid respectability and status has long been earned by the dignified dispensing of professional counsel. Cutting against his industry’s mahogany grain, Sokolove has refined the chore of landing clients into a science, which he practices with the kind of marketing most of his peers regard as tacky, if not altogether abhorrent. No lawyer in the country advertises more—or spends more doing it. In 2007 he paid over $20 million to promote his firm, twice as much as the next-biggest spender. Across the United States, on the radio and on cable networks like Lifetime, a Sokolove spot runs roughly every eight seconds. Which is another way of saying that, somewhere, a Sokolove ad is always running.

All the airtime has made Sokolove into a celebrity and a punch line. Generations of New Englanders can quote his tag lines from memory ("I’m Jim Sokolove. I fix problems"; "I’ll get you the money you deserve"). People say that Sokolove will represent a client for just about anything—in one of the many YouTube spoofs of his ads, a client wants to sue because his carnival bumper car got bumped. It sounds ridiculous, but then Sokolove does have a section on his website labeled "amusement park accidents."

Sokolove’s firm is currently keeping tabs on some 10,000 open cases. Approximately 300,000 calls and e-mails come into his office each year, more than at any other firm. On behalf of his clients, Sokolove has won more than $2 billion in damages or settlements, while he and lawyers working with him have pocketed some $500 million for their trouble. The amount of money he’s delivered is so large that Sokolove figures publicizing it might scare away the clientele that sees him on daytime TV—they’d think he’s out of their league—so in an apparent stab at modesty, his marketing material lists his winnings simply as "more than $1 billion."

Despite his prodigious success and his omnipresent image as a bulldog attorney, Sokolove hasn’t seen the inside of a courtroom in nearly three decades. Truth be told, he’s argued only one case before a jury; it was back in the early 1970s, and he lost. It wasn’t tenacious lawyering that allowed Sokolove to build a legal empire, but rather his prowess as a businessman and an innovator. He and his staff of 80 don’t try cases; instead they connect prospective clients to other lawyers, who pay Sokolove a cut of their fees for ginning up business. As the American Bar Association Journal once described it, Sokolove is America’s "middleman of lawsuits"—a distinction that hasn’t made him particularly popular.

Lawyers say it’s easy to make fun of them until you need one, but even visitors to legalveterans.com, one of the hundreds of Internet domains that Sokolove maintains, are inclined to regard Sokolove in an uncharitable light. Asked in a recent poll hosted there how they would categorize Sokolove, only 6 percent of respondents chose "attorney who is focused on helping people." Most people—about a third—went with "ambulance chaser." But Sokolove regards his image with a measure of pride. When he’s insulted for the volume and types of cases he handles, when he’s called an ambulance chaser, Sokolove has a ready response: "Yeah, the best you’ve ever seen."

  • Ben

    I have been waiting for this article ever since I got cable in 1990! Fantastic story. It would be nice to see more feature stories like this that don't revolve entirely around keeping up with the Joneses and conspicuous consumption, right?

  • joe
  • omayra

    hello i would like to know if i would be able to recieve workers comp. due to an accident at work. I had gotten injured and my employer refuses to give me money although i had gotten hurt at work and am not able to return to work till my doctor says taht its ok. can james k. sokolove help me?

  • Robin

    I read the article in the Boston Magazine moths ago. My sisters and I are concerned for my dad who is in Boston Medical now going on 7 mo 7-31-09. This is unhear of. Hes 79 originally started with colon cancer 1st surgery to remove then 2 others because of leakage from punctured blatter and kidney, another gallblatter surgery and plastic surgery to close the wound that punctured something. stints put in and taken out. Hes YELLOW, fever and has infection from open wound thats only special nurses can change. Please advise. My dad is affraid to say anything. He wants to get back together. No one else would take this case, its contaminiated.

  • jb

    Sadly, Mr. Sokolove’s misguided ability to convince himself that he is, in some way, doing good in the world has only let to the propagation of his destructive enterprise from within New England to the rest of the country. Though clearly focusing on the quite interesting evolution of this evil empire, I thank Boston Magazine for at least showcasing at least some of Mr. Sokolove’s shameless self promotion and lust for financial gain (at any cost.) Be ashamed Jim Sokolove. I can assure you, your influence on the health care system has killed many more than you have saved…

  • Salvador Angel

    MI NOMBRE ES SALVADOR ANGEL Y SOY ESPAOL …

  • lynne

    Is Jim still doing coke? Does he have any $ left. He is the worst human being.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.slaven.16 Richard Slaven

    After reading this article I think Sokolove’s firm is one of the best firm. Now as a professional member of http://lawyerredmondattorney.com/ I want to discuss here about personal injury law. I know that many people have no idea about this and they are not getting enough compensation. Remember one-thing only a good lawyer can help an injured person to get enough compensation.

  • Jerry C. Allen

    My wife borrowed our uncle car with permission and was in an accident. we seattle the amount but they are greedy to ask more money. how to handle this case

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