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Thursday, May 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Make Him Talk

Stop the presses (or the Internet)!

I have a solution for yet another vexing public issue.

As of this writing, the U. S. Congress still hasn't gotten an answer from Michael Mukasey, the new U. S. Attorney General, to the question of whether or not waterboarding is torture.

That may not sound like that tough a question, but, apparently, the A. G. has been spending months reading up on the subject to try to figure it out.

As you can imagine, this has frustrated his interrogators.

But, you know, there are ways to make people talk.

Like, oh I don't know, maybe waterboarding!

Just haul this Mukasey fellow down to Congress, strap him to the waterboard (or whatever you use for waterboarding), and let him consider the issue.

I think we'll get an answer pretty darn quick.

LEGAL PROMOTION. OK, which is better: hype or meaninglessness?

Question No. 2: are lawyers fungible?

Those are the kind of things I wonder about when I see a lawsuit over lawyer advertising. A good one was filed the other day in Florida by a lawyer who had been using the phrase "Don't settle for less than you deserve" in his ads.

The phrase, according to the suit, got approved by the Florida Bar in 2002. Then it got disapproved by the Florida Bar in 2007 for characterizing the quality of the services being offered. After all, why would any potential client want to know what kind of services are being offered?

Apparently the Florida Bar and the Florida Supreme Court also ban slogans and jingles, any background noises other than music, and any kind of statement about a lawyer's character and/or how she/he compares to other lawyers.

OK, I can understand why a bar association would want to clamp down on hype. It's usually best to avoid anything that someone is trying hard to sell.

But, you may be wondering, what does the Florida Bar allow in lawyer ads?

According to the suit, the bar's rules include this list of acceptable content:

"An illustration of the scales of justice not deceptively similar to official certification logos or The Florida Bar logo, a gavel, traditional renditions of Lady Justice, the Statue of Liberty, the American flag, the American eagle, the State of Florida flag, an unadorned set of law books, the inside or outside of a courthouse, column(s), diploma(s), or a photograph of the lawyer or lawyers who are members of or employed by the firm against a plain background consisting of a single solid color or a plain unadorned set of law books."

After all, we know how easy it is to mislead clients with adorned law books.

And if you put a lawyer in front of more than one color, hallucinations could result.

The problem with all this, of course, is that you could stick any lawyer next to the Statue of Liberty and a couple of flags and perch an eagle on his/her arm. Any lawyer who survives the eagle attack is going to look pretty good.

And, yet, it's come to my attention over the years that, oddly enough, not all lawyers are the same. Some are actually better than others.

So aren't the bland approved ads as misleading as the ones with sound effects and pretty colors?

The only reasonable solution is to put all lawyer bar card numbers in a hat and let clients draw them out to choose their attorneys. Representation is like a box of chocolates....

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