Legal Ethics

Lawyer is reprimanded for Google ads linked to opposing lawyers in timeshare litigation

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Updated: A South Carolina lawyer has been reprimanded for buying Google ads that were linked to keyword searches for three opposing lawyers in timeshare litigation.

The South Carolina Supreme Court reprimanded lawyer Zachary Steven Naert, who bought the ads for his firm Naert & DuBois, the Legal Profession Blog reports. Its Sept. 30 opinion imposing discipline by consent is here (PDF).

Naert’s ad ran when Google users searched for the timeshare company or its three lawyers. The ad read: “Timeshare Attorney in SC - Ripped off? Lied to? Scammed? Hilton Head Island, SC Free Consult.”

The lawyer admitted that the ads violated two rules governing lawyer conduct. First, they violated a rule requiring lawyer ads to include the name and office address of at least one lawyer responsible for the content. Second, they violated provisions of the lawyer’s oath requiring opposing lawyers to be treated with fairness, integrity and civility.

Lawyer Michael Virzi represents Naert in the ethics case. In a statement issued to to the ABA Journal and other reporters, Virzi said Naert “is a zealous advocate for victims of timeshare fraud” who, with his law partner, recently obtained two substantial awards in timeshare cases.

“As it pertains to the public reprimand,” Virzi wrote, “Zach was attempting to make his services readily available to victims of timeshare fraud with his ad when Zach bid through Google AdWords on an attorney’s name who represents timeshares companies. Zach did not mean to imply in any way that the attorney was a fraud or fraudulent, only that Zach could help honest, hardworking people who have allegations of fraud against timeshare companies.”

Updated on Oct. 2 to include Virzi’s statement.

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