Advertising Update

first_img October 15, 2003 Regular News Advertising Update At the committee’s recent meetings it made the following decisions on appeals from staff opinions on lawyer advertising: 1. Statements Creating Unjustified Expectations Rule 4-7.2(b)(1)(B) prohibits any statement in lawyer advertising that “contains any reference to past successes or results obtained or is otherwise likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve except as allowed in the rule regulating information about a lawyer’s services provided upon request.”The committee determined that the following language creates unjustified expectations about the results the lawyer can achieve in violation of Rule 4-7.2(b)(1)(B):FAST EVICTIONS!Force tenants to pay rent into court registry or take possession by defaultUse distress writs effectively to freeze tenant assets and inventoryGet quick bankruptcy stay relief* * *STOP HARASSMENTRebuild Your Credit.The committee determined that the following language in direct mail letters creates unjustified expectations in violation of Rule 4-7.2(b)(1)(B): . . . allow us to effectively and simply present your position to legislators. . . . We will use our experience and skills to:Define a formal plan and implement it to ensure that your positions are effectively presented.Identify those legislators that are “fence sitters” and sell them on your position with a mixture of internal and external efforts* * * Working to recover your settlement. Working to recover your retirement.* * * At the “X” Law Firm winning means everything.* * * Do you want to stop your creditors from harassing you?¿Quiere parar las llamadas de sus acreedores?The committee ruled that the following phrases do not create unjustified expectations and are allowable in advertisements by Florida Bar members:Don’t let tenants take advantage of you or the system* * * The Law Firm of X, Y and Z is here to help ease your burdens.* * * Preventive Strategies and Positive Solutions for the Workplace 2. Quality of Legal ServicesThe committee determined that the following language does not characterize or describe the quality of legal services being offered and therefore does not violate of Rule 4-7.2(b)(3): . . . [W]e believe in providing our clients with quality legal service. 3. Newsletters and Other Direct Mail Rule 4-7.4(b), et seq., sets forth requirements for direct mail communications with prospective clients with whom the attorney has no family or prior professional relationship. The committee determined that a letter sent to professionals, such as accountants, is considered a direct mail advertisement and is subject to Rule 4-7.4(b). The recipients are considered potential referral sources since the letter is designed to introduce the professional to the firm, to begin networking between the professional and the firm, and to advise the professional of the advantages of working with the firm. The committee determined that a newsletter mailed to certified public accountants must be filed for review and must comply with the requirements of the direct mail communication rule, Rule 4-7.4. The committee commented that Rule 4-7.4(b)(1) requires all written communications mailed directly or indirectly to a prospective client for the purpose of obtaining professional employment to comply with the direct mail requirements. Therefore, because the newsletter is mailed to accountants who are potential referral sources, the direct mail rule applies. 4. Prohibited Visual Images, Generally Rule 4-7.2(c)(1) provides: “All illustrations used in advertisements shall present information that is directly related and objectively relevant to a viewer’s possible need for legal services in a specific type of matter. Such illustrations shall be still pictures or drawings and shall contain no features that are likely to deceive, mislead, or confuse the viewer.” The committee determined that the following image was impermissible: A photograph of an attorney with his son violates Rule 4-7.2(c)(1) because the photograph of the child is not relevant to an ad for bankruptcy services. The Committee determined that the following illustrations were permissible under Rule 4-7.2(c)(1): Photographs in a direct mail brochure depicting sinkhole damage are allowable because they are directly relevant to the subject matter and are not manipulative. 5. Exemptions from Filing The committee determined that the following language and illustrations are not exempt from the filing requirement and ads containing the following words and illustrations must be filed pursuant to Rule 4-7.7: Member: Doral & Airport West Chamber of Commerce.* * * The word “Injured?” and a picture of a person with a briefcase entering a building.If you have any questions regarding lawyer advertising, call the Ethics Hotline at (800) 235-8619. You may also review the advertising rules and sample advertisements on the Bar’s Web site at www.flabar.org. Recent Decisions of the Board of Governors on Advertising The Board of Governors of The Florida Bar considers appeals from opinions of the Standing Committee on Advertising. The board’s decisions on advertising issues at its most recent meeting are as follows:The board reversed the Standing Committee on Advertising, determining that the following language does not create unjustified expectations in violation of Rule 4-7.2(b)(1)(B) and is allowable: You Deserve Results.The board further determined that the following language is allowable and is not false, misleading, or deceptive in violation of Rule 4-7.2 (b) (1) (A):Does experience matter when choosing a lawyer? You bet it does.The board voted against the Board Review Committee’s recommendation that it adopt a definition of “prior professional relationship” in Rule 4-7.4(a) limited to the “attorney-client relationship.” However, the board deferred answering inquiries by bar members regarding what types of persons might be included under the designation “prior professional relationship” in Rule 4-7.4(a), Florida Rules of Professional Conduct.Recent Decisions of the Standing Committee on Advertisinglast_img

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