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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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