My Shingle

Watch What You Wish For…

by Carolyn Elefant on March 6, 2006 · 6 comments

in Ethics & Malpractice Issues, Legal Profession Trends, Marketing Ethics

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In response to posts criticizing the Nevada Bar’s heavy handed approach to an attorney who advertises himself as “The Heavy Hitter,” (see here, here and here), Jon Stein of The Practice blog endorses increased regulation.  Jon, who is a personal injury attorney himself believes that undignified advertising gives the professsion a black eye and hurts all attorneys in the long run.  He also believes that there are other, more dignified ways to advertise, citing Ben Glass or Bob Kraft.

I don’t practice personal injury law, so I’m immune to any direct, adverse impacts that undignified advertising has on other attorneys.  Still, I have to believe that to the extent that undignified advertising has negative consequences, then lawyers like the Heavy Hitter would stop doing it.  Obviously, ads like Heavy Hitter hit home with clients – and if that’s the case, lawyers who dislike those ads should find a more effective approach, or try to inform prospective clients that they shouldn’t necessarily pick a lawyer because he or she has the flashiest TV ad.

The other issue is that the Nevada Bar didn’t ban the Heavy Hitter ads
because they were undignified.  Instead, the Bar tried to argue that
the advertising was deceptive, because it conveyed the impression that
lawyer Glen Lerner was the only Heavy Hitter.  Under that approach, the
lawyers’ ads that Jon cites – Ben Glass and Bob Kraft would also come
under scrutiny.  Ben Glass’ company is named Great Legal Marketing.  By using the term “Great,” Ben is characterizing his service, something that the Ohio Bar prohibits.  As for Bob, his tagline
states that his blog is “about the ways injured and disabled people are
mistreated by insurance companies and the government.”  I’m quite
certain that insurance company and government lawyers would
dispute Bob’s characterization and argue to the bar that it conveys a deceptive or false impression of government and insurance companies.

Just to be clear, I have absolutely no problem with either
Ben’s or Bob’s advertising – but someone on a bar committee might.  And
that’s the problem of increasing regulation of lawyer ads – we open
ourselves up to a subjective process that is
colored by the type of law that the bar committee members practice and
the type of lawyers to whom the bar seeks, either consciously or not,
to confer with a competitive advantage.

I know that the present system isn’t perfect.  But I’ll take free
speech and the attendant mess that goes with it any day over regulation by a group of lawyers.

  • justaguy

    Jargon. Do you think that man on the street knows what “heavy hitter’ means?
    Why not sell an ipod solely on the basis that it has flash memory ?

  • http://gdgrifflaw.typepad.com/home_office_lawyer/2006/03/watch_what_you_.html Home Office Lawyer

    Watch What You Wish For…

    Carolyn Elfant had the below post on her blog, My Shingle today. Since I could not have stated it better, I have taken the liberty of pasting her entire post below. In response to posts criticizing the Nevada Bar’s heavy

  • http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq David Giacalone

    Very nicely said, Carolyn (as I just stated in an update here).
    Justaguy, I don’t think “Heavy Hitter” ads would be found across the nation if the term were not thought of as common and well-understood. I just Googled “heavy hitter” and got 1.4 million results. (There were almost 6,000 results for , too.) From sportsfishing, golf and baseball, to salesmanship seminars, politics and lobbying, heavy hitter is broadly used and known.

  • http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/2006/03/03#a6149 f/k/a (formerly ethicalEsq)

    heavy breathing over “heavy hitting” lawyers (update)

    California solo p/i lawyer Jonathan G. Stein seems to be rounding up a posse for the Dignity Police . . .

  • http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/2006/03/03#a6149 f/k/a . . . .

    heavy breathing over “heavy hitting” lawyers

    As Carolyn Elefant (” More Bar Silliness : Heavy Hitter is Misleading “) and Ben Cowgill (” Heavy hitters : here, there and everywhere “) both reported and analyzed

  • Andy

    Carolyn: You mention the word “Great” as being something that the Ohio bar prohibits. Attorney Glass is not presenting Great Legal Marketing as a law firm. Does the Ohio bar think it can regulate non-legally related businesses that lawyers own?

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