Lawyer advertising exposed

The finalized amendments to the attorney advertising rules in New York are scheduled to take effect on February 1, 2007.  The new rules go beyond advertising and include communications such as Web sites, email and direct mail in changing the way lawyers can generate new business. Will lawyers’ blogging survive? Or will the weight of lawyers blogging cause the Bar to change its rules?

New York is not alone. See new rules in Kentucky. Other rules already exist in Texas and Florida. And advertising rules are being examined around the country such as in California.

Do these rules violate Free Speech? Isn’t any and every communication from a lawyer intended to attract new business, directly or indirectly? Is this a slippery slope for the Bar?

There are some interesting issues. For example, web domain names need not contain the name of the lawyer. Thus, as in Washington, Summit Law Group, would be an acceptable name. But each page of the web site must contain the actual name of the firm. The question is whether the name of the firm must contain lawyers’ names? In Washington, after a fight with the Bar, Summit Law Group practices under that name, not the name of any individual lawyer. Unlikely this could be done in New York or in many other states.

Will lawyers blogging be deemed to be information or advertising to be controlled by the Bar?  How do we answer the assertion that blogging is intended to demonstrate lawyers’ credentials in a given practice area and thus attract new business? After all, blogging is not limited to communications with existing clients, but rather available to the entire world. Should this come under the restrictions now imposed by the Bar on communications?

Legal Marketing Association, New York chapter, is conducting a seminar about the new professional rules of conduct relating to advertising.


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