Attorneys in trouble for ads

September 5, 2008
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Two Indianapolis attorneys received public reprimands for the use of “Legal Advertisement” and other phrases on brochures they give to prospective clients. After reading the opinion handed down by the Indiana Supreme Court yesterday, I’m confused about how the process of submitting your ads to the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission works.

Attorneys have to file their advertising materials with the commission before they can send them out. But no one at the commission reviews the submitted ads for violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct, probably because there are too many ads to keep up with.

My confusion comes from reading the opinion and finding out the two attorneys submitted one of their brochures to the commission for approval back in 1996. The commission sent a letter back saying they don’t advise attorneys on the propriety of their ads. Yet, the commission sometimes sends letters to lawyers letting them know the language of their submitted ads needs to be changed to comply with the professional rules.

These two attorneys didn’t get such a letter and then found themselves in front of the Disciplinary Commission years later.

I’m not excusing their misconduct – they had been practicing for 10 years by the time the brochures were created – but if the commission sometimes will warn attorneys about their ads, why didn’t the commission respond to the attorneys’ letter and let them know they should have used “Advertising Material” on the brochures instead?

Granted, I’m not an attorney, so I don’t know all the ins-and-outs of having a law practice and advertising, but I would like to think if an attorney wrote to the Disciplinary Commission and asked for approval of an advertisement, or even asked if certain language was permitted, that the commission could respond with an answer to the inquiry instead of sitting on it for eight years and then filing misconduct charges against the attorney for the advertisement. Because they sometimes inform attorneys with letters to revise the language of an ad, why not do that in the case of these attorneys?
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  • I think the rules need to provide for a safe harbor in attorney advertising materials, especially since we have to put them on file. The rules require a $50.00 filing fee so there is already a funding source to review the material. These attorneys complied with the filing requirements and even requested an opinion on their materials; what more could they do in their efforts to comply with the rule?
  • The inference is that the Commission will review something for someone they like, but can bring charges against someone they don\'t like. Sounds like favoritism to me. Whatever the policy, it should apply to all.

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  1. The fee increase would be livable except for the 11% increase in spending at the Disciplinary Commission. The Commission should be focused on true public harm rather than going on witch hunts against lawyers who dare to criticize judges.

  2. Marijuana is safer than alcohol. AT the time the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was enacted all major pharmaceutical companies in the US sold marijuana products. 11 Presidents of the US have smoked marijuana. Smoking it does not increase the likelihood that you will get lung cancer. There are numerous reports of canabis oil killing many kinds of incurable cancer. (See Rick Simpson's Oil on the internet or facebook).

  3. The US has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prisoners. Far too many people are sentenced for far too many years in prison. Many of the federal prisoners are sentenced for marijuana violations. Marijuana is safer than alcohol.

  4. My daughter was married less than a week and her new hubbys picture was on tv for drugs and now I havent't seen my granddaughters since st patricks day. when my daughter left her marriage from her childrens Father she lived with me with my grand daughters and that was ok but I called her on the new hubby who is in jail and said didn't want this around my grandkids not unreasonable request and I get shut out for her mistake

  5. From the perspective of a practicing attorney, it sounds like this masters degree in law for non-attorneys will be useless to anyone who gets it. "However, Ted Waggoner, chair of the ISBA’s Legal Education Conclave, sees the potential for the degree program to actually help attorneys do their jobs better. He pointed to his practice at Peterson Waggoner & Perkins LLP in Rochester and how some clients ask their attorneys to do work, such as filling out insurance forms, that they could do themselves. Waggoner believes the individuals with the legal master’s degrees could do the routine, mundane business thus freeing the lawyers to do the substantive legal work." That is simply insulting to suggest that someone with a masters degree would work in a role that is subpar to even an administrative assistant. Even someone with just a certificate or associate's degree in paralegal studies would be overqualified to sit around helping clients fill out forms. Anyone who has a business background that they think would be enhanced by having a legal background will just go to law school, or get an MBA (which typically includes a business law class that gives a generic, broad overview of legal concepts). No business-savvy person would ever seriously consider this ridiculous master of law for non-lawyers degree. It reeks of desperation. The only people I see getting it are the ones who did not get into law school, who see the degree as something to add to their transcript in hopes of getting into a JD program down the road.

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