Hello and welcome to this JACPA Ethics Alert blog which will discuss two lawyer advertising issues considered the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors (BOG) at its December 2011 meeting as reported in the January 15, 2012 issue of The Florida Bar News. According to this report, the BOG discussed two advertising issues during an executive session at its December 2011 meeting.
The first issue was an advertising appeal related to a law firm’s plan to use an actor portraying a judge in an advertisement with the actor/judge recommending the law firm’s services. Bar Advertising staff and the Bar’s Standing Committee on Advertising rejected the advertisement, saying it was misleading because real judges are prohibited from recommending or endorsing law firms. I reported on the Bar Advertising Committee’s decision in my 12/16/11 Ethics Alert, which is attached.
The BOG decided to defer the matter until the Supreme Court of Florida acts on the pending comprehensive lawyer advertising rule amendments. The BOG also decided that the law firm will not be prosecuted for using the advertisements while the advertising rule revisions are pending if the law firm makes a more prominent disclaimer that the “judge” is an actor and the law firm stops running the advertisement after the advertising rule amendments are implemented and if the BOG determines that the advertisement violates the revised advertising rules.
The second issue involved the use of actors portraying police and other “authority figures,” such as nurses and paramedics, in lawyer advertisements. These portrayals had previously been allowed in advertisements if there was a disclaimer stating that the “authority figure” was just an actor pretending to be an authority figure on TV. The Standing Committee on Advertising recently voted to recommend that actors portraying police no longer be permitted and noted that most police departments would prohibit such an endorsement.
The BOG considered the Standing Committee’s recommendation during its December 2011 executive session and voted to direct Bar staff to review pending advertising amendments to determine how the use of authority figures in lawyer advertisements is addressed, determine whether any changes to the proposed rules would be appropriate and, if so, to present any proposed changes to the BOG at its January 27, 2012 meeting in Tallahassee along with the report on using “authority figures” such a police and judges in lawyer advertisements.
Bottom line: The BOG has deferred prosecution of any advertisements using actors playing judges until the Florida Supreme Court implements rule amendments which address the advertisements (as long as the lawyer makes the “more prominent disclaimer” and stops using the advertisement if it is later determined to be a violation of the amended rules). The BOG will consider the propriety of advertisements with actors portraying “authority figures” at its January 27, 2012 meeting. If you would like to provide input to the BOG on this issue before the meeting, you can contact your local Bar Board of Governors member.
…and be careful out there!
| As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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