Last night I wondered who would be the first to violate New York’s 30-day ban on attorneys soliciting after a mass disaster (Hudson River Plane Crash To Test New York’s New Attorney Ethics Rules?)
Now we seem to have a clear winner. After Googling “Flight 1549” we get this ad in the right side-bar of Google (Flight1549LawyerSearch.pdf)
USAirways Crash Victim?
Helping Victims of Flight 1549
Contact Our Aviation Attorneys
New York, NY
Clicking on the link brings this predictable text:
Were you a loved one aboard US Airways Flight 1549? Are you concerned about your legal rights? Contact our firm to understand how to protect yourself and to seek damages for injuries or trauma sustained during the crash.
OK, those are the facts, now let’s follow the ethics rules…
The anti-solicitation rule is as follows, from New York’s Code of Professional Responsibility (with my italics as emphasis):
DR 7-111 (22 NYCRR 1200.41-a) Communication After Incidents Involving Personal Injury or Wrongful Death
(a) In the event of an incident involving potential claims for personal injury or wrongful death, no unsolicited communication shall be made to an individual injured in the incident or to a family member or legal representative of such an individual, by a lawyer or law firm, or by any associate, agent, employee or other representative of a lawyer or law firm, seeking to represent the injured individual or legal representative thereof in potential litigation or in a proceeding arising out of the incident before the 30th day after the date of the incident, unless a filing must be made within 30 days of the incident as a legal prerequisite to the particular claim, in which case no unsolicited communication shall be made before the 15th day after the date of the incident.
So is a Google ad a solicitation? First, here is the definition of solicitation, paying particular attention to section (d):
A “solicitation” means any advertisement:
a) which is initiated by a lawyer or law firm (as opposed to a communication made in response to an inquiry initiated by a potential client);
b) with a primary purpose of persuading recipients to retain the lawyer or law firm (as opposed to providing educational information about the law) (see EC 2-6(c));
c) which has as a significant motive for the lawyer to make money (as opposed to a public interest lawyer offering pro bono services); and
d) which is directed to or targeted at a specific recipient or group of recipients, or their family members or legal representatives.
Any advertisement that meets all four of these criteria is a solicitation, and is governed not only by the rules that govern all advertisements but also by special rules governing solicitation.
So what does it mean to be “directed to or targeted at a specific recipient or group of recipients…?” Glad you asked. So here it is, under Ethical consideration (EC) 2-19:
“…an advertisement in a public medium such as newspapers, television, billboards, web sites or the like is a solicitation if it makes reference to a specific person or group of people whose legal needs arise out of a specific incident to which the advertisement explicitly refers.”
So what does the Law Firm of Jonathon C. Reiter win? Either clients or a bench slap. We’ll see which one it is.
Note: The law firm link I provided is via TinyUrl redirect so that the firm does not benefit from any Google juice from this posting.
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mortimer, morden, and miracles
a few “quickies” that took too long to write this saturday morning afternoon: thank you, john mortimer, for creating rumpole: as today’s new york times reports, “john mortimer, barrister and writer who created rumpole, dies at 85” (jan. …posted by David Giacalone @ January 17, 2009 1:25 PM