A high-volume, heavy-advertising New York personal injury law firm and a Washington, D.C., advocacy group are apparently the first to challenge the new attorney advertising restrictions that took effect Thursday, February 1st.
On the same day the new rules were implemented, Alexander & Catalano, with offices in Syracuse and Rochester, N.Y., and Public Citizen Inc. filed a federal lawsuit in the Northern District alleging the restrictions violate the constitutional right to free speech and impose anti-consumer limits on lawyers ads.
The suit, filed Feb. 1 in Albany, N.Y., seeks injunctive and declaratory relief in an attempt to prevent enforcement of the new rules by the disciplinary committees.
“The rules overall are a restriction on free speech,” Gregory A. Beck of the Public Citizen Litigation Group said in an interview. “They are not based on a concern that what is said is false, but on a concern of what some people think is poor taste. The [U.S.] Supreme Court has made clear you cannot regulate speech based on taste.”
Alexander v. Cahill comes as little surprise since several attorneys and advocates had questioned the constitutionality of the revised advertising rules in the Code of Professional Responsibility.
“The amendments appear to be motivated solely by a general distaste for certain forms of lawyer advertising and by discrimination against a certain class of attorneys who assist injured consumers,” according to the lawsuit.
Alexander & Catalano bills itself as the “heavy hitters,” a moniker that is probably barred under the new rules. The firm recently removed the slogan from its advertising materials, “at significant expense and, as a result, will lose benefit of widespread public recognition of its slogan,” according to the lawsuit.
The personal injury firm said it also fears that its routine use of phrases like “think big” and its promise to give clients “a big helping hand” in securing large verdicts or settlements is now prohibited.
Additionally, Alexander & Catalano complains that is has been forced to drop its splashy TV ads, which in the past have depicted its lawyers as towering giants leaping onto rooftops and running to the clients house.
“Because these scenes might be considered techniques to obtain attention and because the fictional traits exhibited by lawyers in these scenes do not appear to be relevant to the selection of counsel, Alexander & Catalano has been forced to alter its advertising campaign to stop running these advertisements,” the suit alleges. “As a result, the firms ability to market its services has been significantly impaired.”
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It is a must for anyone planning to practice law in NY.