At the direction of the Supreme Court of Florida, the Florida Bar filed a petition on June 1, 2010 to adopt additional amendments to Rule 4-7.6 regarding websites, Case No. SC10-1014. The amendments, if adopted, would provide a method by which a portion of the website would be considered information at the request of a prospective client and therefore not subject to subchapter 4-7 (the lawyer advertising rules) if specific requirements are met.
I have long been critical of the Bar Associations regulations and handling of lawyer web matters. While I recognize the importance of protecting the public from false, misleading, and downright unethical lawyer advertising, the rules of many states simply haven’t caught up to the technology.
Being “search-minded”, I have always argued that the Internet (including law firm websites and blogs) is always “information at the request of the user”. Using a search engine, clicking on a link, and even entering a URL into an address bar, all require an active action (request for information) by the user.
I recognize that my position is highly subjective, as well as, the overwhelmingly minority position. However, I think the opposition is hard pressed to argue that current rules do an effective job of balancing protection of the public with the commercial speech rights of lawyers. Perhaps we’re not that far from a 21st century Bates decision.