Rule changes miss important update

October 15, 2010
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I’m happy that Indiana has finally entered the 21st century with its lawyer advertising rules and modernized the approach. The last time the rules had been touched, I was watching cartoons on Saturday mornings. That’s a long time ago.

While the rules touch on important subjects, including “ambulance chasers,” they don’t address a pressing issue with lawyers. There isn’t a review panel in place right now for lawyer advertising. Attorneys who want to advertise know what the guidelines are, but if they have questions, there’s no guarantee they’ll get an answer from the Disciplinary Commission.

A 2008 article in Indiana Lawyer about this topic points to inconsistencies in handling advertising that violates Rules of Professional Conduct. One way to fix this would be to create a review system for pre-approval of ads, but that’s never gotten steam. Research showed expenses ranged from $200,000 to $600,000 for this type of system. In a cash-strapped time, it’s not seen as a high priority.

That’s unfortunate because a lawyer’s credibility is on the line. Any lawyer that wants to advertise should educate himself or herself on the applicable rules and seek answers if they are unsure of something. It’s a shame that the commission that regulates the advertising can’t provide concrete answers on advertising on a consistent basis. While there may be some attorneys trying to skirt the line with their advertising, others appear to just make genuine mistakes. And if you’re caught breaking the rules, you’ll most likely be disciplined.

Even $200,000 right now is too much to spend, but if the Supreme Court or Indiana State Bar Association or other organization can come up with a way to fund a review system for pre-approval of lawyer advertising, I think it’s a good step to take.


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