Don't miss the other articles of this three-pack of LawFun:
At first, the foreign lawyer did a double-take, almost bringing the rented Lincoln onto the huge truck next to him on East Colonial Drive, Orlando, Florida, on a very hot March day, circa 2012. He had already made the conscious decision to omit unnecessary u's in words such as humor, color and honorable and was musing privately of sch an alphabet when the eyes fond that billboard.
Attorney advertising is commercial speech that enjoys some freedom of expression protection or, as an American attorney would phrase it, First Amendment protection.
But tasteless and even obnoxious, where the ad's diminishes the public perception of an honorable profession?
But there it was: a billboard on which a local attorney who, presumably, specializes in criminal law, advertised:
We Pay Cash For Crooks.
This was one of many billboards extolling the virtues of Disney World lawyers, down in mid-Florida, the sunshine or the orange state, depending on who you ask.
American lawyers love their ads. And some of them are very funny but also very demeaning to the profession as a whole.
Ever Argue With A Woman? appeared under the banner of Schroder Joseph, a boutique, all-female litigation firm n Buffalo, New York.
Now, the phrase Ever Argued With A Woman? has been trade-marked by another female lawyer, Melissa Wilson of Pennsylvania with, of course, the companion URL and website at www.everarguedwithawoman.com.
And, yes, we have argued with women.
Justice ≈ Lawyer?
I turned to the yellow pages hoping to find some reason there... until I came across the words: Sometimes you need justice, sometimes, you need a lawyer.
I almost lost my breakfast.
But there it was: in full color in the Orlando yellow pages: an attorney advertising deviance with justice.
Did I miss a class at law school?
I Love Larry
Some American attorney ads are downright funny.
Take the Abraham Lincoln Photoshop job by Philadelphia lawyer Larry H. Lefkowitz, who runs www.larrythelawyer.com.
Larry says he's Your Neighborhood Lawyer. Funny but his website sounds desperate, starting off with rhetorical questions:
"(Y)ou may have a problem finding someone you can afford; someone you can trust; someone you can be satisfied with... Most lawyers don't seem to get it.
"People are very skeptical when it comes to lawyers, and rightfully so. Dishonesty is a serious problem in the legal profession."
Larry Lefkowitz, who mentions on his website that he is Jewish, is certainly not the only Hebrew lawyer with a sense of humor and assertive advertising.
One bright Florida morning, lawyers arrived at the Broward Courthouse (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) to see a new billboard affixed to their lunch-break park bench which read, in huge blue letters: "PREFER A JEWISH LAWYER! Jewish Lawyer Referral Service. JEWISH AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION."
David Shulman was one such local lawyer and he was aghast. He blogged about it under this title: "Shockingly Stupid Anti-Semitic Attorney Ad Right Across the Street from the Courthouse."
The attorney ad was taken off in a matter of days but lived long enough to make this list of Outrageous Attorney Ads.
One would hope that calling a lawyer Los Angeles dopest lawyer would be immune from a libel action if that lawyer herself advertised this very moniker.
Allison Margolin of Los Angeles owns the website lasdopestattorney.com and apparently accepting the risk of being called stoned ... or one could change a single letter and - ta-da! - LA's Dopiest attorney.1
In this, as her website attests, she seeks to establish herself as the premier Los Angeles marijuana rights law firm and pot law is huge in California as the state teases legalization into the lawbooks. It is ridiculously easy to get a prescription for medicinal; use of pot in California. Tourist spots like Venice beach, are doted with "the pot doctor is in" tents which promise a consult with a doctor for $40.
An allegation of motion sickness is enough to get a few legal joints.
She might be the dopest but Ms Magolin is likely on to a lucrative specialty.
"I'll be back!"
Moving laterally through the slog of outrageous American attorney ads, we come to a large transformer or judge-like creature breathing fire next to two intemperate attorneys from Alexander & Catalano, (Rochester, New York) and who have trade-marked the phrase The Heavy Hitters.
The firm is well-known for cutting-edge advertising portraying its attorneys as giants towering over downtown buildings, counseling space aliens and running as fast as blurs to reach a client in distress.
But then the New York court ruined everything by changing lawyer advertising rules, seemingly aimed at Alexander & Catalano, especially the part that prohibited advertising that:
"... rely on techniques to obtain attention that demonstrate a clear and intentional lack of relevance to the selection of counsel, including the portrayal of lawyers exhibiting characteristics clearly unrelated to legal competence.
"Advertising that recreates, dramatizes or simulates situations or persons should fairly represent the underlying facts and properly disclose that they have been staged....
"Pictures and other stylistic elements should be used to reinforce traditional considerations, and should not unduly frighten, inflame or otherwise manipulate viewers into ignoring rational considerations. Lawyer advertising should not be likely to shock or offend a substantial segment of the community or to foster disrespect for the law, the legal profession or the judicial system."
The attorneys sued and won, the rules found to be unconstitutional.
On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals added:
"The sorts of gimmicks that this rule appears designed to reach - such as Alexander & Catalano’s wisps of smoke, blue electrical currents, and special effects - do not actually seem likely to mislead.
"It is true that Alexander and his partner are not giants towering above local buildings; they cannot run to a client’s house so quickly that they appear as blurs; and they do not actually provide legal assistance to space aliens. But given the prevalence of these and other kinds of special effects in advertising and entertainment, we cannot seriously believe - purely as a matter of common sense - that ordinary individuals are likely to be misled into thinking that these advertisements depict true characteristics.
"Indeed, some of these gimmicks, while seemingly irrelevant, may actually serve important communicative functions: attract the attention of the audience to the advertiser’s message, and may also serve to impart information directly."
These ads really make a modest, humble lawyer2 jealous, one with no marketing skills whatsoever. All this one has to offer is a lightning quick glove hand in ice hockey goaltending (just ask Harry or Dan .. or even Fast Eddie), a good crop of hair, still, at my age, and a robust constitution in the courts of the land.
How do you get good lawyer copy out of that?
The last thing needed are cheap suggestions.
- Alexander v. Cahill, 634 F. Supp. 2d 239 (United States District Court, 2007)
- Alexander v. Cahill, 598 F.3d 79, 83 (United States Court of Appeals, 2010)
- Grome, Brittany, Albany Government Law Review, May 24, 2010
- NOTE 1: fair comment defence asserted.
- NOTE 2: i.e. Canadian ... except for the humble part.
- Shulman, David, South Florida Estate Planning Law, Shockingly Stupid Anti-Semitic Attorney Ad Right Across the Street from the Courthouse, Sept. 11, 2010