Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lawyers Say Ads Serve Public Need

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lawyers Say Ads Serve Public Need

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton, Times-Union columnist

Twenty five years ago, lawyers weren't allowed to advertise.

Those were the good old days.

Now, it's hard to turn on the television without being bombarded by competing solicitations to sue somebody, anybody, ASAP.

By one well-informed estimate, law firms are spending $375,000 a month just on television advertising in Jacksonville.

That doesn't count all the other forms of advertising, like the ads Eddie Farah has been running in the business section of this newspaper recently. In those ads Farah, whose firm Farah & Farah is one of the heaviest advertisers among Jacksonville law firms, has been seeking people who think they were burned by their stock broker's advice and would like to sue to recover their losses.

While one ad has cropped up on television lately aimed at people who have been arrested for DUI, most of the lawyer ads are seeking people who have suffered some form of injury or mistreatment and want to sue.

Critics see TV advertising as a high-tech version of ambulance chasing. Every time I see one of these ads, the phrase that pops into my head is "trolling for clients."

But Farah is unapologetic. "It gives people a choice," he said. "It educates the public as to what its rights are."

And, as he notes, at least one firm that formerly "looked down" on television advertising has recently jumped into the fray. He's referring to Brown Terrell Hogan, one of the city's more prestigious personal injury firms.

The Brown Terrell Hogan ads may look like Citizen Kane next to the average lawyer ad. But they are still TV advertisements. And, despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that lawyer ads were protected free speech, many in the profession still view advertising as a questionable, even sleazy, tactic.

Wayne Hogan, who is currently running an advertising intensive campaign for Congress, told me last summer that his firm decided that advertising was necessary in order to "communicate important information that people might not otherwise have. …

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