The newly promulgated lawyer advertising rules, which can be found here, forbid the use of nicknames, monikers, mottos and trade names under certain circumstances. 1200.6(c)(7) provides that an advertisement shall not "utilize a nickname, moniker, motto or trade name that implies an ability to obtain results in a matter."
That's rather vague, isn't it? I've given this issue some thought and have found that provision to particularly difficult to apply given that it's such a subjective determination. But, don't take my word for it. Let's consider the practical application of this rule together, shall we? And, let's look at television ads--one of the primary targets of these rules.
In order to do so, over the next week, I'll post a series of posts on this issue. Each post will include two YouTube lawyer ads from other jurisdictions, so as not to pick on any particular New York lawyer or law firm.
Today's first video, an ad for a Virginia lawyer, is reminiscent of a ghost of New York's past--Jim "The Hammer" Shapiro. In fact, I'm fairly certain that the lawyer in this ad actually appeared in some of the Shapiro ads.
(follow the jump for analysis of this video and to view the second video)
So, this ad includes the following phrases:
- 100% of all the money and all the other benefits
- A lawyer who stays awake nights thinking up new ways to get you 100% or more
- Lowell the Hammer Stanley--Call 459-CASH
This one's pretty easy. I think that we can all agree that if this ad were broadcast in New York it would violate the above rule and most likely would also violate 1200.6(e)(2), which requires that a lawyer must be able to factually support the information contained in ads. I'm not sure how Mr. Lowell would factually support the claim that he'll be able to get 100% or more (now that's some interesting math!)of all the money and other benefits. And, it's questionable whether he can prove that each and every case that he handles causes him to suffer from insomnia.
The next video is also from a Virginia law firm:
This ad includes this phrase "the best decision for a better life" and includes a personal testimonial from supposed former clients.
In my opinion, reasonable minds could differ as to whether this ad would violate the lawyer advertising rules if it were broadcast in New York. Is the phrase "the best decision for a better life" a "motto" that implies an ability to obtain results? Maybe. By using the word "best" does the firm make a claim that can't be factually supported? I don't know. What do you think?
Another problem area for this ad is the use of a personal testimonial by "former clients". If this ad were broadcast in New York, it would have to include actual clients and the matter discussed could no longer be pending. Otherwise, the ad would violate 1200.6(c)(1), unless the law firm disclosed that the "clients" in the video were in fact actors, as required by 1200.6(c)(4).
Interesting issues, I think. Stay tuned for two more videos later on this week.