State Bars Still Struggling to Come Out of the Legal Advertising Stone Age


The June 1, 2011, edition of the Florida Bar news has a pair of articles reflecting the Bar’s ongoing struggle to apply an outdated paradigm to the changing legal marketplace.

The first article reports that a “special Florida Bar committee studying private, for-profit lawyer referral services” will have a public hearing at the Bar Annual Convention on June 22. The article comes complete with the usual paternalistic propaganda about preserving the integrity of the legal profession and hints at the mass chaos that would ensue if the Bar associations weren’t here to hold the center together:

• “We want to hear from lawyers who participate in the services and what impact their participating is having on compliance with Bar rules and maintaining the integrity of the profession.” (Grier Wells, Jacksonville Board of Governors Member)

• “This is not a witch hunt. But by the same token, we are aware of what appears to be some horror stories of consumers, and we need to make sure that attorneys are mindful of the Rules Regulating the Bar, and their obligation to the profession and the public.” (Wells, again)

• “Lawyer advertising is heavily regulated to retain the integrity and honor of the profession. In my opinion, those rules should not go out the window if lawyers enlist a third-party agent to do the dirty work.” (Jonathan Neuman, Miami attorney)

The meeting will also discuss recent, failed legislation to further restrict advertisements by medical or lawyer referral services related to automobile accidents.

The second article opens with the (true) statement: “These ain’t your grandmother’s lawyer referral services.” (I would add: “This ain’t your grandfather’s law practice, either.”) It reports on three proposals to the Bar’s Standing Committee on Advertising from companies that are bringing innovative technology to the legal marketplace...

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