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Partners receive public reprimand for ads' use

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Two partners in the Indianapolis law firm Benkie & Crawford received public reprimands from the Indiana Supreme Court Thursday for attorney misconduct in their advertisements for legal services.

In the combined disciplinary actions of the attorneys, In the matter of: Scott A. Benkie; In the Matter of: Douglas A. Crawford, Nos. 49S00-0402-DI-82 and 49S00-0402-DI-83, the Disciplinary Commission charged them with violating Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 7.2(b), 7.2(c)(3), 7.2(d)(2), and 7.3(c) because of wording in two of their firm's brochures to solicit clients.

In one brochure, the phrase "commitment to obtaining the best possible legal settlement for you and your family" was included as well as the term "Legal Advertisement." That was later changed to "Advertising Material." The brochures were filed with the Disciplinary Commission as required by Rule 7.3(c); the attorneys never received a letter from the commission advising them to change the language, as the commission sometimes will notify lawyers when changes need to be made.

The Supreme Court found the attorneys didn't violate Rule 7.2(c)(3) or 7.2(b) with the phrase "commitment to obtaining the best possible legal settlement" because the phrase only promises prospective clients a commitment to their cases, not that the attorneys can obtain the best possible settlement.

But the attorneys did violate the rules regarding use of a public communication containing statistical data or other information based on past performance or prediction of success and the solicitation of professional employment without the words "Advertising Material." The use of quotes from newspapers on their performance isn't allowed because the information could be edited and selectively used to mislead clients. The use of "Legal Advertisement" on earlier brochures was a violation because it may give the impression the commission or another body had reviewed it and found it to be "legal."

The Supreme Court found the fact the attorneys sought advice from the commission regarding their advertising materials mitigates the degree of their culpability; however, the rule requiring the filing of advertising materials with the commission doesn't require the commission to review materials for violations. The court noted that the requirement encourages self-policing by attorneys and preserves a record of the advertisement in case there is a dispute.

Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justices Brent Dickson and Theodore Boehm concurred while Justices Frank Sullivan and Robert Rucker concurred, except they would have found no violation of Ind. Prof. Cond. R. 7.2(d)(2).

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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