As reported last week, on June 22, 2015, following a two-year study, the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (“APRL”) Board approved publication of the Report of APRL’s Lawyer Advertising Committee. As explained on the APRL website, “The Report recommends extensive revisions to lawyer advertising rules so they are compatible with modern electronic means of communication. The Report recognizes the need for lawyer advertising rules to be consistent with the First Amendment, anti-trust laws, the globalization of legal practice, and rapid technology changes, all of which warrant ‘a realignment of the balance between the professional responsibility rules and the constitutional right of lawyers to communicate with the public.’”
I characterized the report as “slamming” the present rules. Perhaps that characterization was a bit harsh–it was not, in any event, what the authors intended. Indeed, in an email from Mark L. Tuft, Chair of the esteemed Committee that authored the report, Mr. Tuft wished to clarify that the Report “does not ‘slam’ the current advertising rules. Mr. Tuft explained:
Rather, it reports on how the current rules are not uniformly enforced and in the case of social media and other current forms of electronic advertisements are not entirely workable. The report proposes to continue the basic principle of regulating false and misleading advertisements through a revised rule 7.1 that combines current rules 7.1, 7.2, 7.4 and 7.5. The proposal, if adopted, would continue to protect the public, provide access to accurate information about legal services, and would reflect a standard that is actually enforced in many jurisdictions. We do not believe the proposal represents a major change in reality. It is intended to help state regulators not to have to spend resources investigating technical advertising complaints (often filed by other lawyers) which can often be resolved though non-disciplinary means. The report also encourages states to work together for uniform rules, since law firm websites reach everywhere.
Thanks for that clarification, Mark. I only hope that the states follow APRL’s advice and work together to bring about these proposed changes. They are long overdue but will only be truly effective if everyone is playing by the same rules.