June 6, 2007

Proposed Rules on Lawyer Advertising in Louisiana Are Unconstitutional

Statement of Brian Wolfman, Director, Litigation Group at Public Citizen

Proposed Louisiana rules on lawyer advertising and solicitation are unconstitutional restrictions on free speech under the First Amendment and would harm many consumers of legal services. The rules would effectively ban all but the blandest of legal advertisements. They would, for instance, not allow lawyers to refer to their past successes, portray clients or allow non-lawyers (that is, actors) to portray lawyers, juries or judges. They would effectively prohibit law firms from using nicknames, monikers or mottos. In other words, some of the most common advertising techniques used in a wide variety of commercial contexts would be unlawful, even when used in a fair and non-misleading way. 

The proposed rules would also reinforce and extend the broad restrictions Louisiana already places on attorney solicitation. Under the current rules, attorneys are prohibited in all circumstances from soliciting prospective clients in person or by phone. The proposed rule would extend the ban to communication with prospective clients via telegraph and facsimile. This aspect of the rule, both as it exists and in its expanded form, unconstitutionally restricts the ability of consumers to receive potentially important information about the availability of legal services.

Public Citizen urges that the proposed rules be withdrawn and that the current rule prohibiting attorneys from communicating with potential clients be modified to place reasonable limits on any restriction of in-person and phone solicitation.

To read Public Citizen’s comments submitted today about the proposed amendments to rules governing lawyer advertising in Louisiana, click here.

Note: The rules were proposed in December 2006 and are currently before the Louisiana State Bar’s House of Delegates for approval and submission to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

###