Ralph Nader Stands Up for the Shysters

Ambulance-chasing in New York just turned into an obstacle course. Under new state rules, lawyers here can no longer freely advertise their awesome settlement-getting prowess (“Lead paint in your house? Over $100 million in damages awarded!”) without providing a sober, diet-pill-like disclaimer that “prior results do not guarantee similar outcome.” They’re also barred from using words like “heavy hitters” or “we’ll fight tooth and nail for you” or any of that macho trash talk beloved by personal-injury, medical-liability, and divorce mavens. Fair enough? Not really: The rule defines almost any private or public communication whose purpose is “the retention of the lawyer” as an ad. Thus, it forces firms to mark their mailings, including newsletters and law updates, as attorney advertising — and guess in which folder an e-mail with those words in the subject line is going to end up. Since the rule could be seen as impinging on First Amendment rights, its opponents have formed the weirdest bedfellowship in recent memory: Ralph Nader is getting involved on the lawyers’ side, through his Public Citizen organization. That’s right: Nader is now fighting on behalf of the shysters. We suspect this is about to get a little confusing but very, very good.

New York Law Firms Struggle With New Restrictions on Advertising [NYT]