Board reviews lawyer advertising appeals

first_img April 30, 2003 Regular News Board reviews lawyer advertising appeals Board reviews lawyer advertising appealscenter_img Among members of the Bar Board of Governors, debates over lawyer advertising appeals are famous, or perhaps infamous. Discussions are frequently extensive as governors probe the nuances of advertising rules and whether lawyers have infringed on them.The board’s April 4 meeting was no different. The lively discussion at one point prompted Bar President Tod Aronovitz, who will preside at his last meeting May 30 in Key West, to lean over to President-elect Miles McGrane, and jovially say, “Miles, I’m really going to miss the advertising cases.”The issue before the board was whether a testimonial given by a lawyer published in the St. Petersburg Times in an ad promoting the newspaper’s advertising services constitutes an ad by the lawyer under Bar rules.The ad, which has run, included the statement, prepared by the newspaper ad staff, which said of the lawyer: “His clients depend on him for sensible, cost-effective solutions. That’s what they care most about.”That statement would not be allowed in an attorney-paid ad because it would create unjustified expectations about the results the lawyer can achieve.Bar staff and the Standing Committee on Advertising both said it was an ad that should be reviewed by Bar staff and comply with Bar rules. The Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics, which makes recommendations to the board on advertising appeals, disagreed by a 3-2 vote, saying it was not a lawyer ad under Bar rules.After an extensive debate, the board by a divided voice vote upheld the BRCPE.Board member Anthony Abate summed up the dilemmas presented. “How do you define an ad in the absence of a definition [in this case]? Here he did not pay anything to have it printed. Although he is getting exposure, he is not directing it. He did not have editorial control.”“It sounds to me like he has the choice whether to authorize that to run,” board member Hank Coxe said. “It includes self-serving information that is related to his practice that is intended to persuade other people to use him. It sounds like an ad whether it is paid for or not.”But board member Mayanne Downs noted while the ad listed the lawyer’s address, it did not give his phone number, Web site or e-mail address, or other easy ways of contacting him.“Obviously this is an advertisement, but obviously it’s not an advertisement for the lawyer. It’s not placed by him, paid for by him, promoting him or controlled by him,” she said. “This goes a little beyond the purview [of Bar rules.]”Board member Chris Lombardo disagreed, noting the ad promoted the lawyer’s services. He also said the exception could create a loophole where lawyers could negotiate with other publications to get such a testimonial ad — which wouldn’t have to comply with Bar rules — in exchange for regular advertising.Board member Mike Glazer said the issue raised free speech questions, adding,“While we are dealing in the gray area, we have to err in favor of the First Amendment. That doesn’t mean we can’t deal with it in our rules.”It was a more direct issue to board member Richard Tanner, who said, “It’s a contrivance; it’s an ad, and it ought to be regulated. The rules are unclear and we ought to tighten them up.”But the board disagreed and supported the BRCPE recommendation that the ad was not covered by Bar rules.last_img

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