In Mark Gold’s waiting room, you don’t have to read boring legal journals. There’s Car and Driver and Audio Equipment magazine, for people who like cars and car radios.
He drives a red Ferrari. And for Christmas, he’s getting a Porsche seat to sit in while he’s behind the controls of his desk.
Mark Gold is an attorney who has turned a hobby, fast cars, into a career. Since May, the 32-year-old Gold has been operating his Miami law practice as The Ticket Clinic, a law firm that specializes in drunken-driving cases and traffic tickets.
"I’ve always had fast cars and gotten a number of tickets and successfully defended myself," Gold said, explaining how he got the idea.
His is one of at least two firms in South Florida that specialize in drunken-driving cases. Both advertise on rock ‘n’ roll FM radio-WGTR, Hot 105, and Power 96 gearing their pitch toward the people who get the most tickets, young males, 18-34.
Ticket Clinic also has television ads featuring a hapless soul who has lost his driver’s license. Buses and taxis pass him by, and he can’t even hitch a ride, so he ends up riding a skateboard to work.
The clients are responding to fear: A fine of up to $500 and a jail sentence of up to six months for a first-time drunken-driving conviction. A speeding conviction can raise insurance rates 30 to 40 percent a year.
Advertising is still controversial in legal circles. Former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger once told a lawyers convention that he would rather dig ditches than be a lawyer who advertises. It is still frowned upon by the American Bar Association, but the Federal Trade Commission told the professional group that it should not overly restrict advertising by lawyers.
Gold says, "most of my clients wouldn’t know where to find a lawyer. They’re not out in the business world."
Nova University law Professor Howard Messing said he hadn’t seen the ads, but thought the idea was "wonderful for somebody who’s arrested for drunk driving, then they know who to go to."
In general, advertising has lowered the prices of some legal services and even made possible the existence of such highly specialized firms, Messing said. That is, traditional methods of getting customers such as meeting them at the Rotary Club would not bring enough clients through the door, he said.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving officials exhibit a tolerance for the ads.
"The Bar has given them the right to do it," said local MADD chapter Vice President Stan Johnson. "If we had our druthers, they wouldn’t. But everybody’s got the right to a defense."
Gold got one client off recently because a breath test machine was taken out of service for maintenance. He was able to cast doubt on the results.
In November, Ticket Clinic handled 95 traffic tickets and drunken-driving cases and lost four, all tickets, Gold said. Of the 95, only 14 were drunken driving.
Gold says Ticket Clinic streamlines the ticket-fighting process. Clients fill out standardized forms. The firm handles a large number of cases by keeping dozens of legal motions on file on the computer.
Lawyers can file a motion to suppress evidence on a breath test quickly just by making a few changes in a standard format, instead of composing and dictating an entirely new motion. Lawyers also can handle several cases in an evening of traffic court.
Fees vary depending on the seriousness of the offense, the number of prior arrests, and whether an accident is involved. A simple drunken-driving case, no accident, involving a first-time offender, could run as low as $950.
To win cases, lawyers probe technicalities. For example, Gold got one client off recently because a breath test machine was taken out of service for maintenance three days after the client was tested. He was able to cast doubt on the results. Gold says he has found the practice busier than he expected. Since May, he has opened a branch in Fort Lauderdale and hired three other attorneys. Right now, he is looking to locate another office in the Cutler Ridge area of Dade County. He eventually hopes to open offices around the state.
"It’s a new, specialized field; you have to know the rules and know them cold," Gold said. "The days of a lawyer going into the courtroom and taking things as they come are over."
Please read the following stories printed in Major Metropolitan Newspapers and distinguished Law Magazines exhibiting Mark Gold’s expertise in traffic law.