f/k/a . . . the archives

April 25, 2007

in the eye of the bar-holder

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 6:43 pm

   An email yesterday from lawyer Marc Chandler plunged me back into the dizzy-ditsy world of the Florida Bar’s Dignity Police and Advertising Nannies.  Marc is half of the Ft. Lauderdale law firm of Pape & Chandler, which is best-known for fighting the Florida Bar Association all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 and 2006, in a losing attempt to continue to use a pitbull logo and 800 Number in promoting their motorcycle injury law practice.  We’ve covered their story often and at length (e.g., here). Pape & Chandler tell about their fight with FBA in their own words, with links to many legal documents, here.

PanterPantherR Panter Panter & Sampredo  PanterPantherL [prior logo]

   Mark’s note intrigued me by including the answer to a question we raised last April: If FBA can ban the image of a sleepy-eyed, non-growling pitbull — calling it fierce, combative and demeaning – what will it do about the slinky panthers used by Miami’s Panter, Panter & Sampredo?  As we noted in our post, Arne C. Vanstrum, Advertising Counsel for The Florida Bar, told Chandler in a telephone call that lions are not as vicious as American Pit Bull Terriers, but panthers are vicious and they are investigating the panther logo.  Marc and I both thought it might have been a little dignity-cop joke.  However, the July 2006 Minutes of the Florida Bar Board of Governors (led by the current President, Henry M. Coxe, III) shows just how arbitrary and subjective the FBA’s Dignity Police can be:

    9.   Report of Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics.   1) Advertising Appeal 03-02483 concerns application of Rules prohibiting visual depictions that are false, misleading or manipulative.  A law firm has been using an illustration of a pair of panthers for several years as part of the firm’s logo in part as a play on the name of two of the partners (Panter).  . . . The law firm filed a revised advertisement on November 28, 2005.    In the interim, the Supreme Court of Florida publicly reprimanded two Florida Bar members for use of a pitbull in a television advertisement in The Florida Bar v. Pape . . . Based on that case, staff requested guidance from the Standing Committee on Advertising regarding the filing law firm’s use of the panthers. 

PanterFirmLogo  At its February 21, 2006 meeting, the Standing Committee on Advertising was divided on the issue of whether use of the panthers violates any lawyer advertising rules in light of the Pape & Chandler case.  Based on that guidance, staff issued an opinion on February 28, 2006 that the illustration of panthers does not comply with Rule 4-7.2(b)(4) (emphasis added), which prohibits visual portrayals or depictions that are false, misleading, or manipulative.  The Standing Committee on Advertising upheld staff’s opinion on April 24, 2006.

    The attorney subsequently requested Board of Governors review.  The Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics voted 4-0 to remove this item from the consent calendar and reverse the SCA decision. The board approved the board review committee’s recommendation by voice vote. 

PanterLogoCrop So, FBA’s Standing Committee on Advertising indeed held, a year and a day ago, that the cuddly pair of panthers at the head of this paragraph violated the code of legal ethics, as a visual depiction that is “false, misleading, or manipulative.”  The Board of Governors reversed that decision — but did it on a voice vote, without giving reasons. The end result is a good one, but I wonder what the process says about the treatment of Pape and Chandler.  Please recall that the following masthead contains the only pitbull depiction ever used by Pape & Chandler: 

 pitBullLogo orig.

How can this little doggie be condemned when the panthers are exonerated?  How can the Florida Supreme Court agree that the depiction of a ferocious pitbull demeans the profession, and FBA president Alan Bookman admonish Pape and Chandler that “The advertising devices would suggest to many persons not only that you can achieve results but also that you engage in a combative style of advocacy”, when panthers are okay? (see prior post

 

spring-like day
the cat grapples
with a catnip bird

                                         spring rain the cat’s pink nipples

wilderness trail     FloridaMap  
the manicured poodle
still on a leash  

 

…………………….. by Carolyn Hall 
“spring-like day” – The Heron’s Nest (Vo. VI, 2004)
“spring rain” – 2003 Henderson Hon. Men.; Frogpond XXVII: 1
“wilderness trail” – The Heron’s Nest (II:11, Nov. 2000)

boxerGrayS  Speaking of “combative style of advocacy“: Marc Chandler’s email informed me that the Board of Governors has also recently permitted a new ad from the firm of Dell & Schaeffer in which the Dell & Schaeffer attorneys are standing inside a boxing ring with the tag line “Let us be in your corner.”

Ferocious?  It’s also a bit strange that the simple depiction of the head of a pitbull by P&C (shown above) is decried as suggesting an unacceptably fierce brand of lawyering, when the high-profile, immensely successful, well-connected law firm of Robert M. Montgomery, Jr. (who was lead counsel for Florida in its $13.5 billion settlement with Big Tobacco) gets to use the following masthead

BobMLogo  

and to open the website with the words “we pride ourselves on being fierce trial attorneys.”   In deciding whether the Florida Bar is truly worried about misleading and manipulating the public with a depiction, or instead about some pathetic notion of Dignity of the Profession, consider the cleancut Panter Brothers:

PanterBrett & PanterMitchell   Brett and Mitchell Panter,

and pillar of the community, RMMJr Bob Montogomery; also, take a look at the photo of the partners at Dell & Schaeffer.   Ads from these “suitable” firms have passed muster with FBA.  Now, compare their “image” with   

the motorcycle-riding, suitless John Pape and Marc Chandler p&c   full tv image

It sure makes me want to scratch my head, and to quote to you from the new-look Pape & Chandler website:

“When you hire Pape & Chandler, you hire John Pape and Marc Chandler. We refuse to water down our legal product by hiring a gaggle of assistants. We have to work harder because we do everything ourselves. . . ..  

Beware the attorney who assumes that he’s dignified and professional merely because he sports a neat little newscaster hairdo, sleeps in a business suit and works for or represents large corporations. You know the type of stuffed shirt we’re talking about. Professionalism and dignity are not products of such superficial nonsense. Some of the most dignified, loyal and trustworthy people we know haven’t worn a suit in years and have long hair and multiple tattoos. At Pape & Chandler, we believe that dignity and professionalism are qualities that you have to earn like a soldier earns his stripes.

“As attorneys we earn those traits by how well we treat our clients, how loyal we are to them and how tenaciously we work on their behalf. We earn those traits by being fully and completely prepared every time we represent a client’s interests inside or outside of the courtroom. We don’t assume that graduating law school and passing the bar exam automatically imbues in us the qualities that smart clients should seek in their attorneys-loyalty, tenacity, commitment, and preparation. We have earned those characteristics one client at a time over the course of our combined 20-plus years of legal practice.”  

 papechandler2007  You can now reach John and Marc at 1-888-MOTOLAW.

 lightning flash–
only the dog’s face
is innocent
 
………… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue
 

country graveyard
a dog burying
a bone

nobody on the street
stray dog stops to bite
its wagging tail

 ………………………. by George Swede from Almost Unseen
       FloridaMap   We recently detailed the dignity indictment by FBA against Steven Miller, Esq. and DivorcEZ.   In case you think that I’m picking on the Florida Bar, here are some of the ethics actions taken over the past year by its Advertising Nannies:

     Per the September 29, 2006 Minutes of the Florida Bar Board of Governors [BOG]: a) Staff concluded, and the BOG agreed that the language “Avoid Time in Court” and ““SAVE VALUABLE TIME!” in a direct mail advertisement to handle traffic ticket cases was likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, in violation of Rule 4-7.2(b)(1)(B), among other
rule violations.   b) Staff and the Standing Committee on Advertising concluded that the language “When justice is done for a mother, a child a family you can’t beat that” is likely to create an unjustified expectation about the results the lawyer can achieve.  The Board Review Committee ane full BOG disagreed, finding the above language permissible.  c) The visual depiction of a crashed car with people inspecting the crashed car, including a deployed
airbag, was found to be manipulative and therefore impermissible under Rule 4-7.2(b)(4).   and d) Background sounds such as horns honking, traffic, wind through a car window, squealing brakes, and a heart monitor were found to be impermissible.

boxerSignN   Per the BOG December 8, 2006 Minutes: a) the phrase “legal firepower when you need it most” was determined to be a statement that characterized the quality of legal services, in violation of Rule 4-7.2(b)(3).  b) when the same law firm then submitted the phrase “Protecting you and your family for 25 years” was deemed impermissible, because likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, in violation of rule 4-7.2(b)(1)(B).  c)  Based on guidance from the Standing Committee on advertising, staff rendered opinions that television advertisements using the telephone numbers 1-800-Justice and 1-800-Justicia were misleading.  Eventually, the Board Review Committee and full BOG reversed and allowed the use of the numbers (although owned by an out-of-state company).  And, d) the Board accepted a proposal that use of the term “Doctor of Law” or “Doctor of Laws” is misleading in the context of an advertisement published in English.  It took the position that “lawyers can state their own actual degrees, but that use of anything other than the degree is misleading and impermissible.

Two final points before I get accused of being too combative and demeaning to the legal profession:

  1.     According to the Orlando Business Review, “Florida Bar’s board favors Web ad regulation.”  Under the proposed Website Rule 4-7.6, the homepage would be treated like all other advertising (except for needed prior approval), with lawyers allowed to advertise their past results and the quality of legal services through testimonials on Web pages that are just one click past the homepage. (BizJournals.com, March 30, 2007).  That is not very surprising, of course.  What is a bit unexpected, however, is the assertion by Charles “Chobee” Ebbets, chairman of the special committee that developed the proposed Web advertisement rule, that the proposed rule would make Florida the first state to address lawyer advertisements via the Internet.
  2.       Possibly Relevant Blast from the Past:  In Ethics Opinion 82-1 (April 1, 1983), the Board of Governors (going against the majority of members of the ethics committee) concluded that “A lawyer’s inclusion of the statement ‘Jesus is Lord‘ with a drawing of the dove of peace in his advertisements does not violate the commands of the Code of Professional Responsibility.”  The opinion noted that the words and drawing does not appeal primarily to “fear, greed, desire for revenge or similar emotion” and is not “showmanship, puffery, self-laudation or hucksterism.” [There is no mention about whether the items are likely to promise results or suggest an undue connection to a decision-maker.]  The Ethics Opinion also explained (are you listening, current FBA leaders?): “While the inclusion of such a message in a commercial advertisement may be viewed by many as ‘professional bad taste, the United States Supreme Court in In The Matter of R.M.J., [455 U.S. 191 (1982)], declined to recognize bad taste as a viable ground for restriction of commercial speech.” 

slanted light
through meadow grass
the jackrabbit’s ears

 

lopsided moon
a phone message saying
the cat is dead

…………………….. by Carolyn Hall  - Acorn #16 (2006) 

 

3 Comments

  1. Has Anyone Tried Sharks?…

    An amusing account of the Florida Bar Association’s acceptance of lions and, after some misgivings, panthers, as appropriates animals for inclusion in law firm  logos, but its determined  rejection of the pit bull for the same purpose, …

    Comment by Appealing in Nevada — April 26, 2007 @ 7:11 pm

  2. What was the final outcome of this case? Were you able to keep your Panther logo?

    Comment by Tampa Injury Law — April 7, 2008 @ 8:56 am

  3. We were not involved in the case. As suggested, above, the Florida Bar leadership demonstrated just how subjective and arbitrary their complaints really are. Panthers are apparently dignified animals, and ethically appropriate, while pit bulls are not.

    Comment by David Giacalone — April 7, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

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