Fake Bar Associations a Real Example of What’s Wrong With the Ad Rules

Hey, I’ve got an awesome plan:

  1. Create bogus Bar Associations
  2. Set up lawyer referral services under their names
  3. Get those services approved by the State Bar, and
  4. PROFIT! $$$$$!

So yeah, that’s basically what this attorney in Kentucky did.

Like many states, Kentucky has a Bar rule that allows for non-profit lawyer referral services. I’ve written before about the many, many issues with these rules. But one under-appreciated problem is how susceptible these rules are to abuse via creative compliance.

So basically:

  • You’ve got a rule that prohibits a form of marketing used without incident in all other industries – paid referrals.
  • That is, unless such paid referrals are provided via bar associations (never mind the unexplored assumption that there’s something about Bar associations that makes their referrals purer or less likely to mislead the public than any other referral services)
  • And, because the Rules are applied rigidly, some asshole who creates bogus bar associations gets his “bar association referral services” approved because they’ve, you know, got “Bar Association” in their names.

It’s moronic and embarrassing. This kind of garbage is obviously misleading, and yet the Bar’s own ostensibly-consumer-protecting, overly-detailed-and-prescriptive Rules are enabling this crap.

Yet more fodder for the argument that the best thing that could be done to the Rules is to strip them down to a simple “false and misleading” standard. With that, it might be easier for the powers-that-be at the Bars to see this kind of thing for what it really is.


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