Interesting Florida Bar and Florida Supreme Court happenings on Web Site Regulations

An  issue that has been pending before the Florida Supreme Court since February, when the Court declined to Follow the Florida Bar’s suggestions on new ruled for regulating web content has now come to a resolution that is somewhat messy and curiously intertwined with the resolution  of a federal case on web advertising that was stipulated to be dismissed in the Southern District last week.  What will happen next?   On November 13, the Florida Bar – represented by Barry Richard, and Joel Rothman -represented by Bruce Rogow, agreed to a stipulated motion to dismiss, in a federal case Rothman Complaint Final challenging the Constitutionality of  the Bar limiting the use of testimonials on Avvo, with the Bar stipulating that it was reviewing all the Bar’s advertising rules, and that while it was reviewing the rules, it would consider information on sites such as Avvo, information provided at a clients request- consequentially not subject to the restrictions on testimonials, etc. Stipulated Dismissal Rothman The Court approved this stipulated dismissal on November 16th.  The Daily Business Review published an article on the 18th, stating that the Bar had agreed to Exempt Online sites such as Avvo from its requirements.  On November 19th, the Florida Supreme Court issued its revised opinion in sc08-1181, ruling that as of January 2010, all web content, including third party sites such as Avvo, and law firm web homepages, will be considered advertising material, and subject to all advertising  requirements except being submitted for approval, and would not be considered information received pursuant to a client’s request.

Very interesting, but one has to suspect that Rogow was not aware that the relief his client agreed to would be so short lived, or he would not have so agreed, and and it appears the Bar may even have been surprised  that the SCT granted its request for rehearing, – since the stipulation entered into appears to contemplate further study by the Bar.

Bottom line though, the Florida Supreme Court’s decision is going to create a world of problems for all law firm websites, particularly for those firms with multi- state offices.  It appears that listing cases handled and results, which  many firms do, including it appears Barry Richard’s firm, would run afoul of the Florida Bar’s restrictions as of January.  Additionally, it does appear that with this broad of a sweep, that the Bar may be running afoul of the First Amendment in a few respects.  Members of the Florida Bar have probably made a serious mistake in not being more involved in this discussion of regulation because of its broad consequences.

Posted on November 23rd, 2009 by Woodring Law, filed under Uncategorized
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  1. Josh King says:

    Good analysis – this is a mess, and confusing for Florida attorneys trying to figure out how the rules apply. I’ve posted more details on how the new decision relates to directory sites: http://avvoblog.com/2009/11/24/more-confusion-in-the-sunshine-state/

    Josh King
    VP, Business Development & General Counsel
    Avvo, Inc.