When I began in the practice of law, advertising was prohibited. The most a lawyer could do was to put a small add in the Yellow Pages. But television, radio and billboards were strictly prohibited. When I opened up my law practice in the mid-70s I had no money. I scrounged for enough to commission a sign for my office. It was a slice from a cypress tree which was hand carved. It cost more money than I had. Nonetheless, I wanted that unique sign in front of my office. The sign had my name, “Denis M deVlaming”, on the top and on the bottom it read “Attorney at law”. The letters were 3 1/2 inches high. After constructing signposts, I proudly hug my unique sign out in front of my 700 sq. ft. office. About 60 days later I received a call from the Florida bar. I thought they were going to compliment me on my sign. I was wrong.
They informed me that they received a complaint that the letters on my sign exceeded the 3 inch limitation imposed by the bar. They instructed me to take it down. When I explained that I could not shorten the letters, they were unimpressed and insistent that the sign be removed. I was heartbroken. I was so proud of that sign. I decided to take an appeal (yes, an appeal) to the Florida bar requesting an exception. After a great deal of wrangling, they reluctantly agreed and I was able to keep my sign with those oversized 3 1/2 inch letters.
Oh, how times have changed. Now we have carnival barkers on the television telling everyone who will listen that their firm is superior and they are the ones to hire. And then there are the billboards. You cannot travel down a major roadway without seeing a lawyers face staring back at you, again proclaiming they are the best in the business. Even flyers sent to people’s houses are permitted. It has, in my opinion, cheapened the profession. It was once very noble to be a lawyer as society regarded them as the smartest ones in town and their opinion was coveted. Now, there are more lawyer jokes than there are lawyers. And that’s saying a lot. Advertising has given us the reputation of being ambulance chasers and shysters. Just out for the money. It’s a sad state of affairs. One that I am ashamed of. I would do anything to go back to the days when advertising was prohibited and someone hired a lawyer based upon their reputation, experience and talent. Not the one who has the slickest website.