First Amendment

New Florida Bar Web Rules Ignite Firestorm; ACLU, Law Firms, Even FTC All Object

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Stringent new Florida Bar rules on attorney online advertising have ignited a firestorm, attracting criticism from a sweeping array of groups including not only law firms that do business in the state but the American Civil Liberties Union and even the Federal Trade Commission.

A common theme is that the new rules—which ban “deceptive, misleading, manipulative” or confusing audio and visual materials, online testimonials and discussion of case results—violate the First Amendment, reports the Daily Business Review in an article reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

Faced with a likelihood of snowballing litigation, state bar authorities postponed the initiation of the new advertising rules, which had been scheduled to take effect on July 1, and said it would take comments about them until Aug. 16.

Meanwhile, some firms, such as Maltzman Foreman, have already done extensive work to review and revise their websites to comply with the new rules, often with the help of hired consultants. Maltzman Foreman, which has offices in Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles, now has a disclaimer page requiring users to check multiple boxes before reaching its main website.

Others, however, find the need for a disclaimer objectionable, saying that it discourages consumers from accessing legal websites and obtaining useful information via the Internet.

Related coverage: (April 2009): “Consumer Group Sues Over Fla. Bar’s Client Testimonial Ban” “Ethics Officials Seeing More Cases from Lawyers’ Online Foibles”

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