The Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers is a reputable, some might even say conservative, bunch, made up of law professors, bar counsel, law firm GCs, and attorneys who represent those facing disciplinary proceedings. It’s not an organization that’s going to run off half-crocked and propose radical changes in the rules governing the practice of law.
However, it has done just that – but without the “half-crocked” part.
APRL created a “Regulation of Lawyer Advertising Committee,” and that Committee has just issued its report, which was adopted by APRL’s Board. In the report, the committee concludes:
The practical and constitutional problems with current state regulation of lawyer advertising far exceed any perceived benefits associated with protecting the public or maintaining the integrity of the legal profession.
The report goes on to recommend that the current rules (ABA Model Rules 7.1 – 7.5, with the exception of 7.3 – solicitation – which the Committee deferred on) be replaced with a single rule prohibiting false and misleading advertising. This is a surprisingly bold and sweeping recommendation, and it tracks closely with proposals I have made in the past, as well as Avvo’s recommendations to the ABA’s “Future of Legal Services” commission. 1
If adopted, the APRL recommendations would eliminate all of the nuttiness in the current rules, which chafe so badly against both modern commercial speech doctrine and modern means of communication and advertising. It would help bar counsel focus on those violations that really hurt potential clients, rather than technical violations that offend no on other than competitors looking for an edge. Hell, it would even give leeway for using the term “specialize;” the comments note that attorneys can use this term-that-shall-not-be-named as long as it’s not deceptive to do.
So bravo, APRL. But the real question is – will the ABA and state bars listen to this all-too-sane-and-sensible recommendation?
- I am a member of APRL, but did not serve on the Lawyer Advertising Committee. ↩