Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Ham Law" Hams it up: New Lows in Legal Advertising?

The Bates v. Arizona Supreme Court 1977 decision determining that legal advertising was commercial speech protected by the First Amendment opened the veritable floodgates for lawyer advertising, changing "the profession" forever and making the law a lot more like other businesses.

I do wonder, however, if in 1977 the Supreme Court justices writing for the majority could have entered into a time machine to 2011 for the sole purpose of viewing the advertisement below from a Las Vegas PI, attorney what would they have said? Would it have made them to pause and think not once, but twice before reaching their decision?

It is axiomatic that "good taste" or even "good judgment" cannot be codified as law or regulation. But failure to adhere to certain standards which may also reflect poor taste or poor judgment can conceivably be subject to regulation or even made illegal. Throwing around hams and generally making an ass of yourself in 30 second spots over the public airwaves is probably something that should not be prohibited. Mr. Hamilton is free to make a complete ass of himself if he wishes and I certainly would never hire him as my attorney. All this is consistent with free markets generally. But the vexing question is that are there some categories of conduct where the broader public needs protection from themselves?  Paternalism (of either the governmental or corporate sort) is antithetical to me, but will unsophisticated, unsuspecting people be swayed by this advertising rubbish? Does it matter? Indeed, Mr. Hamilton may be a terrific lawyer, even if it is the case he is a complete knucklehead when it comes to marketing. And there is that judgment thing. On second thought ex-ne that comment regarding that he might be a terrific lawyer.


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