Add Missouri to our ever-growing list of states with “we’re just protectin’ them simple-and here for Florida; here for South Carolina regarding lawyer nicknames; here and there for Kentucky; and here for New York]This time, the Supreme Court of Missouri, in an Order issued Sept. 19,2005 and effective Jan. 1, 2006, has amended Rule 4-7.2, adding a newsubsection (f). The rule will require that each lawyer ad “contain thefollowing conspicuous disclosure:“The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.”Proving that the Court thinks lawyers are pretty simpleminded, too, a newSupplemental Missouri Comment states: “In the case of television, thedisclosure . . . may be made orally or in writing. In the case of radio, thedisclosure must be made orally.” (emphasis added)It seems to me that a more necessary warning would be:“The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and shouldnot be based solely upon a recommendation from your Bar’sLawyer Referral Service.”[See our prior post -- getting the next lawyer on the list ishardly an improvement.]pointing to an article from the St. Louis Dispatch about the new Missouri rule.The article also notes that the new rule will:“[S]top lawyers from advertising for a specific type of case if theyhave no experience in that area. Ads must state if a lawyer routinelyrefers an area of practice to other attorneys. Another change requiresthat if a lawyer touts damage awards or settlements he has won, healso must state that past results are no guarantee of future outcomes.
“The rules also expand restrictions for direct solicitation of clients, suchas advertisements sent through the mail. Among new prohibitions is onethat stops lawyers from vilifying or disparaging a potential defendant.[Mark] Levison [who headed the MoBar committee that sought the newrules] cited the example of a mailing that depicted a doctor behind bars.”In my opinion, Missouri lawyers and courts are really reacting to their owndislike of all lawyer advertising — to uphold the profession’s supposed “dignity” and preventAlabama Supreme Court makes some important points (see the Press Release):“[I]t is best for consumers if concerns about misleading advertisingare addressed by adopting restrictions on advertising that are tailoredto prevent unfair or deceptive acts or practices. . . . [I]mposing overlybroad restrictions that prevent the communication of truthful and nond-eceptive information is likely to inhibit competition and to frustrateinformed consumer choice.” As the Commission staff noted in a 1994comment to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Advertising,“research has indicated that overly broad restrictions on truthful advertisingmay adversely affect prices paid by consumers, especially for routinelegal services.”As to the “dignity of the profession” concern, the FTC’s Alabama Letter concluded:“[B]road rules to enforce criteria of ‘dignity’ may prevent the communication of useful,nondeceptive information and thus inhibit competition and consumer choice. Strictrules to enforce ‘dignity’ may not give consumers enough credit, for consumersapparently respond more positively to advertising that would be considered ‘dignified.’And consumers appear to be less offended by certain supposedly undignified methodsthan professional themselves are.”
update (Sept. 27, 2005): Evan Schaeffer, who practices in Missouriand Illinois, doesn’t think the new disclosure will be effective, but won’tmind adding it to his Missouri ads. He wonders, however, about corporatedefense firms, whose ads target a more sophisticated crowd but will nowneed to include the confusingly irrelevant bit of “information.”If you’re feeling over-protected by your legal profession, letme suggest a haiku break. W.F. “Prof. Bill” Owen neverunderestimates your intelligence:
waxing moonwe take turns crankingthe ice cream makermorning belldew spinsfrom the kickballautumn morningtwo veteransshoulder their broomslast bale of hayone strap holdshis overalls“last bale of hay” – Frogpond XXV:1 (2002)“autumn morning” – Modern Haiku XXXIV:1 (2003)“waxing moon” – Modern Haiku (Winter 2002)
- by dagosan:
not quite October:holly wreaths fillthe sweet corn bins[Sept. 26, 2005]“soldSign”