St. Mary's Law Journal


Lawyers are concerned about tactics and antics of advertising attorneys because of possible harm to the reputation of the legal profession due to tasteless, crass ads circulated among the non-legal public. This controversial issue of what is good taste includes the question of how far ads can go before crossing the line of prohibited solicitation. Lawyers advertise through direct mail, television, radio, telephone yellow pages, billboards, newspapers, and magazines. This Article traces the background of legal advertising, focusing on the particular issue of television ads. Some courts purposefully avoid this aspect of legal communication with the public and leave many questions unanswered. This Article discusses those lingering questions in the context of how to regulate legal advertising on television and what form the regulation should take. The states must regulate television advertising by lawyers unless some federal agency, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), provides guidance in this area. Not many states have chosen to act in this regard. Therefore, the profession itself must act and encourage self-regulation among its members. Until the United States Supreme Court takes a position on the subject, the states are left to regulate this form of media advertising as they think best. The fact that fewer attorneys may be advertising on television suggests self-regulation is already working. Regardless of whether the current level of self-regulation turns out to be effective, more is needed and should be administered in a highly visible fashion. Attorneys will continue to advertise on TV as long as it exists. The author of this Article hopes the dignity of and respect for the legal profession can be maintained even in the absence of federal regulation. Attorneys have the right to advertise. Hopefully they will not abuse this right.


St. Mary's University School of Law