Anyone else flummoxed by the proposed new advertising rules for lawyers in New York? Take a close look at this article and the text of the proposed amendments to the rules and let me know what you think.

As I read the rules, EVERY public communication is an advertisement and any communication that isn’t an advertisement is probably a solicitation. That should cover almost every communication between lawyers and the public.

In either case, a shocking number of draconian and micro-managing rules will apply.

I’ll let others consider the free speech and other aspects of these rules, but I’d love to see some marketing experts analyze what the actual marketing effectiveness of any communication that satisifes these rules will have. My tentative conclusion is that if an “advertisement” or “solicitation” might in even a limited way be effective, it will violate the rules. If it has even been recommended as an effective form of marketing, it will probably cause you trouble.

This seems to be another in a series of recent regulatory efforts by state bar regulators that seem woefully out of touch with the Internet era.

Should you care? Well, consider this quote from the rules: “A lawyer not admitted in this jurisdiction is also subject to the disciplinary authority of this state if the lawyer provides or solicits any legal services in this state.” Take a quick look at the definition of “computer-accessed communication” in the amended rules and consider how a website or blog located anywhere is likely to be treated by the plain language of these proposed rules.

Once again, we see a concern about a limited problem being turned into wide-ranging regulations that will have enormous unintended consequences and seem designed primarily to protect established, successful practices from new competition.

Are we seeing the last gasp of an attempt to apply 19th century concepts to a 21st century world, or will lawyers be the only group able to roll back the changes the Internet has brought to the rest of the world? I’m betting on the Internet, but I’m quite curious about what others think about these proposed rules and others like them. It might be a good discussion topic for a summer Friday.

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