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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Regulating the web

The Internet is a particularly benign medium of communication vis a vis particular consumers.

No, the above isn't taken from an email from Nigeria. Actually, it's a line from a lawsuit filed in federal court in Austin, Texas by the Cochran Firm against officials of the State Bar of Texas.

It seems that the Texas bar - or at least its Commission for Lawyer Discipline - has decided that it's a good idea to regulate law firm websites because they are lawyer advertising.

Oh boy. Imagine the possibilities.

Really. Go on. Imagine them.

Yes, the Texas bar - and other any bar that wants to do the same sort of regulation - is going to have to monitor every website run by every firm practicing in its state each and every day because websites do get updated kind of a lot.

According to the Cochran lawsuit, Texas requires that ads, including websites, be submitted in advance to the bar. Think about the poor Texas regulators being inundated with page updates.

Nobody said protecting the public was easy.

But what is the public being protected from on the Cochran site?

I'm not sure, but, as far as I can tell, it's probably because the site says the firm has won some cases.

You don't want innocent potential clients to be led astray by knowing that a law firm has handled cases before and won them.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Probably not since you're likely more sane than I am. What I'm thinking is that if you looked at just about any law firm website - really, any of them - you'd find stuff that the Texas bar wouldn't like.

So I went on that Internet thing, found a list of the largest law firms in America, and started clicking on their websites. Here's a sample of what I found:

"Jones Day Wins Dismissal of Class Action Complaint Against International Coal Group."

"Latham & Watkins Advises Morgan Stanley on CHC Helicopter Leveraged Buyout, One of the Largest European LBO Financings."

"Skadden ranked first by volume in U.S. announced deals and second in global announced deals through the first three quarters of 2008, according to Bloomberg."

"Weil Gotshal Secures Major Litigation Victory for Exxon Mobil."

I could go on and on and on, but then you'd stop reading and I'd be lonely

Good luck, Texas bar. You're going to have so much fun regulating all this.

DO YOU HAVE A CASE? Really, do you?

The Internet can make almost everything in life so simple. Just look at the Cochrane Firm website. You can fill in some blanks under the heading "Do I Have a Case?" for an answer to the question.

Instant gratification. It's a great public service.

There's so much more that could be done along these lines. If your firm has a website, consider including a fill-in-the-blank form with one or more of these questions:

"Should I dump the spouse?"

"Will I look fat if I wear this to court?"

"Was it imprudent of me to shoot that guy more than five times?"

"Where is the bathroom?"

"Can I be sued if I harass all my employees equally?"

Potential clients will flock to your site.

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