Illinois should follow Missouri's lead on personal injury lawyer advertising

Travis Akin Aug. 23, 2009, 5:11am


The Board of Governors of the Missouri Bar will soon be considering new rules to tighten up regulations on personal injury lawyer advertising, a move many law firms are fighting.

The Board of Governors already has taken significant steps to regulate personal injury lawyer ads, which is why some personal injury law firms are fighting back against the proposed new rule changes. Currently, all law firms advertising in Missouri must have a disclaimer which states, "The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisement."

The proposed new rule changes would put some guidelines in place as to how the disclaimer can be presented in both print advertising and broadcast commercials. The intention behind the rule change is to make sure advertisers do not diminish the effectiveness of the disclaimer in their ads. Another rule change would ban celebrities from attorney ads unless the celebrity is a current or former client.

If the full Board of Governors of the Missouri Bar approves the new rules, the recommendation to approve would go to the Missouri Supreme Court for final adoption.

Contrary to the views of a few personal injury lawyers, the proposed rule changes in Missouri are intended to make sure advertising does not go too far and potentially mislead the public. If the rules are adopted, law firms will still be able to advertise. The new rules, though, would simply make sure personal injury lawyers do not go so far beyond the scope of informing citizens of their legal rights in their advertising campaigns as is the case in states such as Illinois.

There is a world of difference between what is happening in Missouri and Illinois when it comes to the regulation of law firm advertising. While the Show Me State is actively refining its rules, Illinois has done very little to regulate personal injury lawyer advertising.

Illinois television viewers are treated to a barrage of ads that go far beyond informing people of their rights. Many of these ads almost dare viewers to file a lawsuit even if they have not been injured.

While the Board of Governors of the Missouri Bar is taking significant steps in the right direction, Illinois remains light years behind. Is it any wonder then that the respected Harris polling company has ranked Illinois the fifth worst state in the country for legal fairness?

There are good reasons why attorneys from all across the country flock to Illinois to file their junk lawsuits. Illinois makes it easy for them to use television, radio, and the Internet to reach potential clients. Some law firms even go so far as to send people to police stations to comb through crash reports to find the name and address of accident victims as a way of attracting new clients.

The rules governing law firm advertising is just another example of the chasm that exists between Illinois and other Midwestern states when it comes to legal fairness.

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