While advertising can be filled with hype, lawyers are supposed to comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct, which limit the content of their advertisements to statements that are quantifiable. In other words, an attorney can ethically say that he has had 14 verdicts of one million dollars, or that she limits her practice to a particular area. But lawyers in Pennsylvania cannot state, for example, that they are speciailists (unless they have been certified as a specialist by a Board approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court) or make statements that can’t be quantified (tested). Yet they do so, and apparently with impunity.
The most recent example I have confronted is a lawyer who advertises on sports talk radio in Philadelphia and on the front page of the Legal Intelligencer, the daily newspaper for lawyers in Philadelphia. In the radio ad, this lawyer was described as not only an excellent lawyers, but the “best lawyer in America.” Right! And I have a bridge to sell you. That same lawyer advertises for referrals on the front page of the Legal, encouraging other attorneys to refer to the firm because they are the “best.” My point is not that this attorney is not a good attorney, it is that such advertising blatantly violates the Rules, and no one seems to care.
This is only one example, and this lawyer/law firm is not alone, although the hype as the “best in America” is grander than any ads I can recall. The ads are everywhere. They are on TV and radio, for lawyers who claim to have written “the book,” as though the practice of law began and ends with them. Or, the many other lawyers who claim superiority based upon their egos and no quantifiable data. For lawyers who try to comply with the Rules, however, these ads are discouraging. So are the many that don’t comply with Rule 7.2, which governs the content of advertisements, a Rule that seems to be breached as much as it is complied with.
I believe in free speech as much as anyone, but isn ‘t it time for the Rules to either be enforced (or tested if the “best lawyer in America” believes the Rule violates his Constitutional rights) or eliminated. Otherwise, why have Rules? Or why should other lawyers even try to comply with them?