Friday, December 02, 2005

No Pit Bulls or Othe

No Pit Bulls or Other Creativity(?) in Legal Ads in Florida

Posted by Dennis M. Kennedy
David Hudson's article, "Florida Muzzles Pit Bull Ads," in the ABA Journal eReport tells the detailed story of the recent Florida Supreme Court ruling that the law firm Pape & Chandler's use of a marketing logo and campaign featuring the image of a pit bull violated Florida's Rules of Professional Conduct. It does a great job of talking with people involved in the case and analyzing the arguments and the ruling.
I mention this decision because it iillustrates how difficult it is for lawyers and law firms to do "creative" advertising and, indeed, use the normal types of advertising techniques that are commonplace in advertising for other goods and services. This case should show those outside the legal profession why lawyers seem so reluctant to try standard advertising and marketing approaches and why many inside the profession think the rules create a minefield of potential problems for both the unwary and the well-intentioned.
The money quotes;
[T]he Florida Supreme Court reversed the referee’s ruling, finding the pit-bull ads "demean all lawyers and thereby harm both the legal profession and the public’s trust and confidence in our system of justice."
The state high court relied in part on the comment to Rule 4-7.1, which provides: "A lawyer’s advertisement should provide only useful, factual information presented in a nonsensational manner. Advertisements using slogans … fail to meet these standards and diminish public confidence in the legal system (Note: emphasis mine; quoting the material quoted in the article, which uses the ellipsis)."
The law firm plans to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. It might be interesting to hear Judge Alito's answer to a question about this type of regulation of the legal profession.
My own opinion, for what it's worth, is that rulings such as this one provide a real disincentive for lawyers who want to innovate in almost any aspect of the practice of law, whether they are in Florida or elsewhere, because of the "chilling effect" that they create. I'm curous what others think.
The opinion does seem to only address actual advertisements. As you may have noticed, many law firms have marketing slogans these days. It'll be interesting to see how other Florida firms change their ads in light of this ruling.
More information:
Sincerely yours Rodrigo González Fernández, lawyerschile.blogspot.com

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