Advertising Case: Bates v. State Bar of Arizona

Advertising Case: Bates v. State Bar of Arizona

In 1977 The United States Supreme Court ruled that lawyers could indeed advertise their services.  The court ruled that lawyer advertisements were protected under the first amendment of the United States Constitution as commercial speech.  William C. Canby, Jr. a professor of law at Arizona State University argued for the appellants Van O’Steen and John Bates in the Supreme Court.   While John P. Frank argued for the appellate State Bar of Arizona. Frank was a partner in the prominent Phoenix law firm of Lewis and Roca.  Robert Bork the Solicitor General of the United States represented the United States Government.

Until this decision Lawyers were restricted and held by the State Bar Associations to a separate and higher standard of building their law practices.  The State Bar Associations and many independent attorneys throughout the country held that lawyers that advertised their services were demeaning the profession as a whole and the practice is not prudent or professional.   The tradition of forbidding advertising stemmed from the premise that a lawyer’s work would speak for itself and generates new clientele based upon word of mouth and reputation.

Without this decision Lawyers would continue to have their hands tied behind their back in order to effectively build a successful law practice.  Certainly lawyers historically have gained negative press and have been presented in the media as unscrupulous.  Issues such as affordability and equity would be met with serious obstacles to spread the truth about this highly ethical and necessary profession designed to protect the innocent, the citizen, the consumer, and the corporation from potential destruction.

Having the opportunity to present a fair and balanced view of the profession, the various roles of the attorney, the types of specific specializations of a law firm and how to locate and contact an attorney of the consumers choice would be nearly impossible without a permissible and well balanced marketing strategy.  Setting standards for marketing and advertising offers the consumer of legal services the ability to make decisions based upon prudent investigation as well as word of mouth.