Ever since Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977), a limited constitutional right for lawyers to advertise their services has been recognized. Even now, legal advertising remains subject to a million rules and requirements, in an attempt to “maintain the dignity of the legal profession” (because advertising is only something those baser, non-legal professions engage in).
I suspect the ad above is the sort of thing regulators feared would result if legal advertising were permitted. When I saw it, my first instinct was that it was a photoshop. Googling the attorney involved, however, brought up his blog and confirms the ad’s existence.
The ad does not violate any of the Model Rules 7.1-7.5, so it is not legally unethical, but I’m sure the ABA Commission on Advertising would feel it is in extreme violation of their Aspirational Goals for Lawyer Advertising. Among other things, these goals state that advertising should avoid “inappropriately dramatic music, unseemly slogans, hawkish salespersons, premium offers, slapstick routines or outlandish settings.” ‘Unseemly slogan’ and ‘slapstick routine’ might apply here. (However, the ad actually seems to comply perfectly with another ABA goal: “Lawyers who advertise should use marketing professionals to target audiences and present clear messages.” I’d say “OMG!! Arrested?” is both finely targeted at the intended clientele, and is, through brief, extreme clear in its message.) But violating an ABA goal is not the same as being in breach of professional conduct standards:
Among professionals, there is a difference between what one may do, without violating a rule, and what is seemly:
Simply because free speech allows us to make fools of ourselves is no reason we should avail ourselves of the opportunity. For then, sadly, it is the whole profession that suffers. In re Kotts, 364 N.W.2d 400, 407 (Minn. 1985).
While it’s not going to be winning the “ABA Award for Dignity in Lawyer Advertising,” I actually really like the ad; I imagine it is very effective marketing for the frat boy DUI scene, and it’s cute in an “aww, look, old people trying to be trendy!” kind of way.
One final note though: the ad’s first listed means of contact is texting. To me, that’s the only shocking part about this ad. You can obtain legal representation via text? Damn. What about through instant message? Do law firms have AIM screennames now?
And if you get arrested and the cops let you make one phone call, can you opt to send one text instead?