The Florida Bar has proposed new rules designed to govern lawyer advertising – all advertising, including websites and Internet ads. Those rules also would extend the requirement for pre-approval of ads that now exist for television, radio and most other media.
The rules would require that attorney websites be limited to claims that are “objectively verifiable” and lawyers would be prohibited from using actors and other celebrities to pitch their services unless they are clients.
Earlier this month, a consortium of some of the larger law firms asked the Florida Supreme Court to reject those rules for lawyer websites.
Greenberg Traurig’s Barry Richard spoke on behalf of the Florida Bar. He said a committee recommended they start with a clean slate and review each rule to determine if it should be retained, or changed, and to restructure them all to make them more simple. The rules over many decades have been changed in a “hodgepodge fashion” and that the result was that they were inconsistent.
Lawyer Tom Julin of Hunton & Williams argued on behalf of the consortium of attorneys. If you are not inclined to exempt websites, then he suggested they look to ABA rules. They are simple and clear.
“Large law firms are very conservative institutions and they want to do everything they possibly can to comply with whatever rules are out there,” Julin said. “Take websites out of this keep it applicable to television and billboards.”
Justice Barbara Pariente said she believed websites were in a different category than other advertising. “Someone has to go to a website, you don’t have it in your face when you are watching morning TV. I don’t know of any website that employs jingles.”
To see the arguments click here.