September 17, 2014
This web page could have been titled "How To Find a Slander Lawyer", but it wouldn't be the truth. This is mostly bad news, with a little bit about what you can do to improve your legal situation.
We constantly get emails asking for referrals to slander lawyers. We can't help, for two reasons:
1. We can't afford the 100 million dollars to keep track of nearly a million lawyers.
2. We've never seen a lawyer who specialized in slander anyway.
There are plenty of libel lawyers around. Mostly they work for newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, or book publishers. If you're libeled (defamed in print or media) you can find one who will take your case, though they're not cheap. However, libel lawyers don't know everything about slander. Yes, libel and slander are both forms of defamation, but there can be subtle differences in how courts treat them.
More important, libel lawyers expect you to slap the libelous article or a video on their desk, to show them all the evidence. Slander doesn't work that way. Accumulating the facts can be 90% of the work, and libel lawyers don't have any experience at that. That's a problem, because law schools teach, "When you have the facts, hammer the facts. When you have the law, hammer the law. When you have neither, hammer the table." So libel lawyers tend to ignore building the factual side of the case and just try to win on legal points. This is a bad idea with a slander case, because the facts are slippery and hard to come by. A list of witnesses is a poor way to launch a lawsuit, because people lie on the witness stand.
Of course there are phony slander lawyers. Personal injury firms especially are now advertising slander among their skill sets. We doubt they know much, judging by the misinformation they publish on their web sites it looks like they didn't even take Defamation 101.
Best Bets, in no particular order:
1. Hire a libel lawyer, and then hire a private investigator to collect the facts. That way you only pay the libel lawyer for actual legal work, and boning up on the differences in slander. You don't want to be paying a $350/hr libel lawyer to collect evidence.
2. Outside big cities you won't find libel lawyers. Our recommendation would be to hire a litigator, generally one working with a firm that specializes in business law. This is because business law firms are less emotional than something like divorce law. Business lawyers are used to clients calling the shots, where divorce lawyers are used to hysterical clients. (After two years of being slandered, you may be near hysteria, but that's no reason to hire a lawyer who makes you even crazier!)
Forget about lawyers with no litigation experience or narrow specialties like drunk driving. It costs too much to bring them up to speed.
Why are there few or no lawyers specializing in slander? Because it's an urban legend among lawyers that slander cases are unprofitable. They're wrong juries can give pretty big awards where financial harms or emotional distress are the claims but nevertheless lawyers believe it. This is also the reason it is almost impossible to get a lawyer to take a slander case on contingency.
Fighting Slander author Nicholas Carroll is an expert witness and consultant on defamation of character.
For a thorough plain-English guide to defamation and how to effectively work with an attorney on slander or libel please see our ebook Fighting Slander, applicable in all 50 states. The ebook also contains samples of jury verdicts in different cases to give you an idea of how much juries are awarding for slander these days.