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New York lawyer advertising rules reviewed in court today

New York’s new lawyer advertising rules will be the subject of a hearing today before a federal judge in Syracuse. Public Citizen, represented by Greg Beck, is asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction preventing New York from enforcing the restrictions, which took effect Feb. 1, on the basis hears oral on the basis the rules violate the First Amendment.

Communicating with Greg over the last year or so, I’ve found him to be spot on his view that the ad regulations, pushed by the New York Courts as consumer protection, are really anti-consumer. As Greg explained to the New York Sun’s Joseph Goldstein, “If lawyers are faceless, anonymous entities, consumers will have a hard time knowing which lawyers to contact.”

In court today, Greg will be arguing that the regulations are ambiguous, thus in violation of the First Amendment. “Under a strict reading of the rules,” Greg told Goldstein, “all lawyer business cards would need to carry a disclaimer reading “Attorney Advertising.” Law firms could interpret another rule requiring that advertising not contain information extraneous to the legal services being offered as forbidding firms from placing pictures of their attorneys on their Web sites.”

Though lawyers fighting for the restrictions feel certain advertising is degrading to the profession, many like me feel such lawyers are just protecting their own flow of work. They do not want innovative lawyers to reach prospective clients using innovative marketing techniques the ‘good old boy’s’ don’t understand.

As an aside, my view, as well as the view of lawyers such as Greg, is that blogs are not covered by New York’s new ad rules. The reason being that the ‘primary purpose’ of a blog is not ‘the retention of the lawyer or law firm.’ The primary purpose is to offer general information and insight.

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