Legal Marketing

Legal Ad Police Say Yes to Lions, No to Pit Bulls and Background Noise

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Advertising lawyers are running up against unusual state restrictions and tough bar regulators who have challenged ads that contain pit bulls, space aliens, giant-size lawyers and background noise.

Tighter restrictions on lawyer ads are the trend, according to the Wall Street Journal. The story reports on some of the more unusual restrictions, now in effect or under consideration.

South Carolina is reviewing a ban on ads “likely to attract clients by use of showmanship, puffery or hucksterism.” Florida allows instrumental music, but no background sound, slogans, jingles, manipulative visual depictions or ads that create suspense. Some of New York’s new ad rules, held unconstitutional in a ruling now on appeal, ban nicknames that suggest an ability to get results, portrayals of judges, portrayals of lawyers exhibiting characteristics unrelated to competence, and client testimonials about pending matters.

The Florida Bar successfully challenged ads by personal injury lawyer Marc Andrew Chandler that shows a pit bull with a spiked collar, but the bar has allowed panthers in ads for Miami firm Panter, Panter & Sampedro, the story says. At least two other firms feature images of lions on their websites. But the bar has refused to approve ads with fierce or roaring tigers or a shark ready to attack.

Syracuse, N.Y., attorney James Alexander won the New York challenge to bar regulations at the trial level after the bar said he could not run ads showing lawyers advising space aliens and leaping over tall buildings. The case is on appeal. New York officials say the ads may present only truthful information.

“It cannot be denied,” the state brief says, “that there is little likelihood that [the lawyers] were retained by aliens, have the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or have stomped around downtown Syracuse, Godzilla-style.”

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