Spring 2002, pg. 86. Lawyer Advertising! Where it began, where it's headed.


Maine Bar Journal


Spring 2002, pg. 86.

Lawyer Advertising! Where it began, where it's headed

Maine Bar JournalSpring 2002Lawyer Advertising! Where it began, where it's headedDERRY RUNDLETTFirst, I hope you won't mind reading an article with only one case citation and no footnotes whatsoever. No ibids. No supras. In fact, there are no Latin words in this entire article.

Second, I recognize that some of you out there do not know that there was once a time when there was no lawyer advertising. Back in the good old days, lawyers could advertise with a simple, dignified sign, and the only specialty that could be advertised was patent law. If you can't recall a time when there were no lawyers on television, you are among the people who know Ron Howard only as an aging, bald movie director who just won an award for "A Beautiful Mind"; and, to you, the tragic John Kennedy death occurred on a plane a few years ago.

Law students entering the first-year class this coming September might well ask the dean who's teaching "Looking Good on Television" and "Lawyer Advertising 101"? What amazes me is that it has been an entire quarter century since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting lawyer advertising was an abridgement of freedom of speech in the famous case of Bates vs. the State Bar of Arizona.

So why, after twenty-five years, does this issue suddenly become one of the hot topics at the recent annual meeting of the Maine Bar Association, the subject of a press release from Michael Nelson, who is chairman of the Court's Advisory Committee on the Rules of Professional Responsibility, and the focus of many articles that have appeared in newspapers throughout the state during the past couple of years? The answer: television advertising, and specifically, those commercials focusing on personal injury cases. How many television ads have you seen recently with lawyers soliciting for wills, divorces, or estate planning? No question, television advertising is very effective. Just ask anyone who has spoken to a high school or junior high school class recently. One of the first questions you may hear is: "Yeah, but can you beat [fill in the name of your favorite television lawyer]?"

Where did this all start in Maine? Some may think it was a mild-mannered attorney by the name of Don Lowry (who resembles James Franciscus, the...

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