Public invited to render verdict on lawyers' ads


Do you find lawyers' ads misleading?

Or are they an acceptable way for attorneys to promote their services?

Either way, the Maryland State Bar Association would love to hear from you.

State legislators, lawyers and jurists have been raising a ruckus in recent months about lawyers' ads. Several pieces of legislation aimed at restricting lawyer advertisements and making sure they're not false or deceptive were defeated in the General Assembly this year.

But the target of the ads -- the public -- hasn't been heard from, Janet S. Eveleth, a spokeswoman for the state bar association, said.

So the bar association is conducting a non-scientific poll, and results will be presented to the Rules Committee of the state Court of Appeals. The court panel is reviewing a U.S. Supreme Court interpretation of the First Amendment that suggested that states can't impose sweeping restrictions on lawyers' ads.

"The Rules Committee said that they want hard empirical data," Ms. Eveleth said. "They want to know if Maryland residents have a problem with lawyer advertising."

She added that no complaints have been lodged with the Attorney Grievance Commission, which is Maryland's disciplinary body for attorneys.

The bar association is seeking to limit what attorneys can say JTC and do when trying to lure clients. Among other things, the state bar would like to ban testimonials and endorsements by celebrities or anyone hired to represent a law firm or an attorney, Ms. Eveleth said. Advertisements discussing damage award amounts or a lawyer's track record for obtaining such awards also would be prohibited.

Joseph W. Walton of Ellicott City wrote in a letter to The Sun that he would like to seek restrictions placed on lawyer advertisements. "It creates a false sense of hope for some people who think that there's an easy dollar through a legal action," he said.

To respond to the poll, write to: Maryland State Bar Association, P.O. Box 49, Annapolis 21404

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