Attorney advertising, it seems, has just taken a big step in a new direction… at least in New York.
In a recent decision, the 2nd Circuit Court held that attorneys had the right to get a little creative in their advertising, and that right was protected by the First Amendment.
The plaintiffs bringing the challenge to the Rules of Professional Responsibility regulations (22 NYCRR §1200) were Syracuse-based personal injury firm, Alexander & Catalano and Public Citizen Litigation Group. The plaintiffs argued that the restrictions on nicknames (“heavy hitters” was their favorite), client testimonials and similar marketing tactics violated the First Amendment and should be struck down.
And it seems the appellate court agreed.
The court found that while the old rules did serve to ensure law firms looked professional and “dignified,” those benefits did not outweigh their First Amendment rights and should therefore be discarded.
The ad in question showed larger-than-life plaintiffs providing counsel to space aliens, an image that the State contended was “irrelevant and unverifiable.” But the court felt that while the space aliens might be a little… well, spacey, such an advertisement was considered the norm in this day and age and offered no harm to consumers.
They did uphold two of the rules however: attorneys are still prohibited from depicting fictitious law firms or giving the appearance that attorneys from one firm were actually from different firms as that could confuse the consumer. They also kept the 30 day moratorium on advertisements targeted to victims of a specific event.
The moral of this story? If the courts are beginning to realize the importance of creative marketing for law firms, isn’t it time you did too?
President & Co-Founder
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.