Panel suggests few changes to lawyer advertising

By Chris Dickerson | Jul 20, 2006


CHARLESTON – The State Bar's Lawyer Advertising Commission is recommending that little change in the world of lawyer ads.

Basically, the commission suggests that advertising simply be truthful and not misleading.

Instead of pre-screening ads, this plan would use the State Bar disciplinary counsel's office to examine ads after complaints are made. One alternative was what Kentucky does with a board that must approve all ads before they're made public.

"The changes that we are offering are the ones we offered in 1999, but what we're doing is taking away the standing commission," said Elliot Hicks, a Charleston attorney who headed the 19-member panel. "When you look at how many ads there are, you'd have to have this commission looking at all of those. We're talking phone book ads, direct mail pieces, billboards, TV and radio ads, newspaper ads … everything. That is a lot of advertising."

Hicks said he was told by people on Kentucky's commission that they find that process "burdensome and not fruitful."

"There was a real sense of real frustration," Hicks said. "The job is so big and the number of ads they really need to address is so small. We learned from their experience of not being happy. They don't seem to be real happy with what they've got out of this. They think they have a lot more work and not a lot of results.

"Basically, it isn't time- or cost-efficient."

The State Bar Board of Governors was to examine the proposal Friday in Wheeling. If they passed it, it will go to the state Supreme Court.

After having been examining the issue for eight years, Hicks – who headed a similar panel in 1999 -- said he now looks more closely at lawyer ads.

"I have noticed that ads have changed," said Hicks, who said he has seen subtle changes and disclaimers on such ads recently. "And that's just as a result of the publicity of this cause."

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