In terms of fair disclosure, my firm advertises on television, in trade publications and on the web. Personally, I would love to go back to the time when attorneys and law firms did not advertise, but that ship has long since sailed and there is no turning back.
Despite my personal feelings I believe lawyers should have the right to advertise within fair and not unduly restrictive limits. A recent ruling by the Florida Bar relating to text messages, in my opinion, crosses the reasonable line.
After years of prohibiting advertising by lawyers because the television ad had the sound of a light switch being flipped, the Florida Bar has now gone to permitting what may be some of the most intrusive advertising – text messaging. The Florida Bar recently approved the use of text messaging to contact the victims of personal injuries or their survivors.
Regardless, text messaging to victims and potential clients are approved and consumers should be aware.
The Bar still requires compliance with the Rules regulating the Florida Bar.
If the lawyer complies with the rules, the consumer can expect to receive a text message, which should include:
- It must begin with “Advertisement”
- It must include a written statement setting forth the “background, training and experience of the lawyer or law firm”; including specific experience in the area of the law in which the solicitation is being made.
- It must include: “If you have already retained a lawyer for this matter, please disregard this letter.”
- It must disclose how the lawyer obtained the information prompting the communication.
Besides this required information, the text presumably will also include all the reasons the lawyer believes the person should call her office to hire them.
If the text message involves personal injury or wrongful death, the rule requires the communication occur “more than 30 days after the “accident or disaster”.
Now, let’s try to imagine the length of that text message in compliance with the rules. The background and training section, for most lawyers, will probably take up a paragraph and that is only if they are severely edited. The remaining required items are likely to make a fairly lengthy text message, once you add in the actual message you want to deliver.
Will the person be able to see the actual sender? Maybe. Certainly, the firm should identify itself. After all, they want you to contact them, but the actual sender may be a series of numbers if it is sent by a mass mailing service.
Will you pay for the text? Some carriers charge you even for receipt of text messages. The Florida Bar requires the lawyer sending one of these text messages to pay for the text or be sure the consumer is not paying for it.
You try to keep your cell phone number private to avoid unwanted text messages? There are databases out there from which cell phone numbers are easily obtained.
If you receive a text message from a lawyer and have questions about it, call the Florida Bar. If you are charged for a text message from a lawyer, call the lawyer and demand reimbursement. Call the Florida Bar immediately if you are not reimbursed.