The newly promulgated New York lawyer advertising rules, which can be found here, implement a number of changes as I've discussed in my prior posts on this issue. One of the changes that concerns me the most that I haven't yet discussed is the requirement found in 1200.6(h):
All advertisements shall include the name, principal law office address and telephone number of the lawyer or law firm whose services are being offered.
I think it's a safe assumption that this new requirement was intended to prevent personal injury lawyers with principal offices in one county from advertising on television and in print in another county in a way that some might characterize as misleading. In many cases, the advertisements suggest that the principal lawyers who appear in the advertisement will be handling their case, when in fact those lawyers rarely leave their office in the main county where the principal office is located and associates of the firm handle cases located outside of the main county.
While I can appreciate the concern that motivated the enactment of this section of the new rules, this new requirement is likely to pose problems for specific group of New York lawyers--those with home offices who utilize web-accessed communications, such as as web page. In my experience, many of the lawyers with home offices are women. And, as you can imagine, anyone with a home office, especially women, would prefer not to disclose their home address to the entire world.
(Continue reading after the jump)
While 1200.7 of the rules continues to require that letterhead and business cards include the office address, I don't have a problem with that requirement, since lawyers have control over who receives their letter or business card. But, lawyers have no control over who accesses their web site. And, that presents a safety issue, both for lawyers and their families. Granted, one can access registration information regarding attorneys and that information is available to the public, but generally only those with a certain amount of wherewithal, such as other attorneys, know how to go about obtaining that information.
I think that reasonable minds can agree that a web page of a home office attorney that only lists the county or city in which the attorney practices, but does not include the exact address of the home office, does not present the legal consumer with misleading or inaccurate information. The concerns that likely motivated the enactment of this new address requirement are not present where a home office attorney does not include address of the home office on a web page but does include that information on letterhead and business cards.
And, it appears that there's no getting around this requirement under the current version of the rules. As I recently learned at the seminar regarding the new rules, post office boxes do not satisfy this rule. I'm not sure whether a virtual office would suffice, but even a virtual office is an added expense that would likely impose a substantial financial burden upon those with home offices, especially part-time practitioners.
A practical solution to what I believe is the inadvertant and unintended effect upon lawyers with a home office--one that is unduly burdensome and quite possibly dangerous--would be to either exclude those attorneys who practice out of home offices from this requirement or to include language that indicates that this requirement applies only to those practices with more than 3 employees (or some other small number).