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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Texas Lawyers are Ready for Their (Ethics Committee) Close Up

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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Mary Alice Robbins features the haute couture of lawyer schlock, the YouTube spot, in the Texas Lawyer’s Internet Video Solicitations Need Ad Committee Review, Bar Says. I was planning on taking the opportunity to post a few of my favorites but they’ve scattered like prairie dogs. As of this writing a query against the YouTube database for “texas lawyer” yielded zero hits.

Kim Davey, the State Bar’s spokeswoman, says the Advertising Review Committee began noticing lawyers’ ads on YouTube and similar Web sites within the past six months to a year.

Wow, I guess they’ll be discovering facebook any year now.

Houston’s own Mark Bennett has a cameo –

Houston criminal-defense attorney Mark W. Bennett has broadcast several videos on YouTube since August 2007. But Bennett, a partner in Bennett & Bennett and president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, says he has not submitted his videos to the Advertising Review Committee. Bennett also says he has not received a letter from the committee reminding him to do so.

Bennett says he considers his YouTube videos to be commentary and informative for the public rather than a solicitation.

“I’ve never put up anything that says, “Hey, if somebody sees this, they will want to hire me,’ ” Bennett says.

One of the Bennett & Bennett videos features Bennett discussing how to avoid being arrested for driving while intoxicated when stopped by a police officer. The toll-free number of Bennett’s firm and its Web site address appear on the screen throughout the video.

Bennett says that before Texas Lawyer called, he had never given any thought to whether he should have submitted the videos to the Advertising Review Committee. But Bennett says he will submit the videos to the committee for review.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry when dealing with the Texas State Bar,” Bennett says. “It’s better to pay.”

But Bennett says he considers the fees charged for such reviews to be just “another money-maker for the State Bar.”

Alas the rules are begrudgingly clear – 7.07 Filing Requirements for Public Advertisements and Written Solicitations requires that

(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (c) and (e) of this Rule, a lawyer shall file with the Advertising Review Committee of the State Bar of Texas, no later than the mailing or sending by any means, including electronic, of a written, audio, audio-visual, digital or other electronic solicitation communication…

While we at the Blawgraphy prefer our First Amendment sunny side up, prior restraint of lawyer speech is a small price to pay for the hallowed and unbesmirched reputation of attorneys in the community as pillars of……. tact.

Only one clause truly gives me pause… lawyers shall provide with their submissions:

(3) a check or money order payable to the State Bar of Texas for the fee set by the Board of Directors. Such fee shall be for the sole purpose of defraying the expense of enforcing the rules related to such solicitations.

Which leads me to the truly frightening apprehension that somewhere in the dark recesses of the state bar offices a person sits in a lonely cubicle (chained to the desk?) whose sole professional occupation is the serious evaluation of lawyer advertisements on YouTube.

… the horror…. the horror….

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Category: lawyer advertising, lawyers behaving badly, professional irresponsibility

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