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CHARLES F. RUFFIN: Best lawyer advertsing educates the public

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: While senasational lawyer ads are frowned upon, they are protected speech

Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

I and other Georgia lawyers have received calls and emails about the local advertisement that a Savannah-area lawyer ran during the Super Bowl.

Although I cannot speak for all lawyers, I firmly believe most members of the State Bar of Georgia do not condone or approve of advertising that uses sensationalism and “over-the-top” graphics in an attempt to get business. Nonetheless, the right to free speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that lawyer advertising is protected under the First Amendment. Therefore, the Bar’s ability to control the content of ads is very limited.

Notwithstanding, I assure you that Georgia lawyers engage in a level of professionalism beyond the bare minimum. Most of us follow The Lawyers’ Creed, an aspirational statement endorsed by the Supreme Court of Georgia, which states in part:

As a lawyer, I will aspire:

(b) To consider the effect of my conduct on the image of our systems of justice including the social effect of advertising methods. As a professional, I should ensure that any advertisement of my services:

(1) Is consistent with the dignity of the justice system and a learned profession.

The best lawyer advertising is designed to educate the public about the law or to help people in need find a lawyer. I encourage any member of the public to fully investigate the qualifications of a lawyer and not select a lawyer solely based upon the content of an advertisement.

CHARLES L. RUFFIN

Macon

EDITOR’S NOTE: Charles L. Ruffin is president of the State Bar of Georgia.