When you think of lawyer, do you think of someone who is Jewish? That would be called a stereotype, and while there is nothing wrong with you thinking that way, is there something wrong with playing up on the idea that Jewish attorneys are more desirable than non-Jewish attorneys?
The Jewish American Bar Association is a new organization that has been advertising a Jewish Lawyer Referral Service with the following line: “Prefer A Jewish Lawyer!” Realize that the advertisement is for a referral service and is not an ad purchased by any particular lawyer or law firm. For those of you who watch television regularly, you can equate it to 1-800-ASK-GARY, a medical and lawyer referral service. Their ads are annoying and sometimes bothersome, but they are also effective. And these referral services do not have the same advertising restrictions as lawyers and law firms.
Currently, there are three lawyers registered with the Jewish American Bar Association. Hopefully they did their due diligence before signing onto the service. Lawyers in the State of Florida need to be careful before they start working with a referral service. They cannot accept referrals from a lawyer-referral service unless the service:
- Engages in no communication with the public or directly with prospective clients in a manner that would violate the rules if they were made by a lawyer;
- Receives no fee or charge that constitutes a fee splitting/sharing arrangement, unless the service is a not-for-profit approved by the Florida Bar;
- Regularly furnishes the Florida Bar on a quarterly basis with the names and Florida Bar membership numbers of all lawyers participating in the service; and
- Affirmatively states in all ads that it is a lawyer referral service.
The one bus bench advertisement that I looked at did mention that the Jewish American Bar Association is a lawyer referral service. If all other ads state the same thing, then the final element is satisfied. The third element should not be a challenge to accomplish. The real concern should be element #1. Would a lawyer be violating the rules of professional responsibility if he/she did the same kind of advertising? Is it false, misleading, or deceptive in any way? If so, then the lawyers in the Jewish American Bar Association should be concerned.