Michigan Supreme Court amends rule for attorney advertising effective September 1

by Thomas Franz
BridgeTower Media Newswires

An order from the Michigan Supreme Court on May 30 will change advertising requirements in the legal industry starting Sept. 1.

The order is an amendment of Rule 7.2 of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct, which governs advertising.

Section D of the rule has been changed, and now reads: “Services of a lawyer or law firm that are advertised under the heading of a phone number, web address, or trade name shall identify the name, office address, and business telephone number of at least one lawyer responsible for the content of the advertisement.”

That language is a hybrid of a proposal submitted by the State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly.

“I would’ve preferred the more expansive rule that required the website link to show all of the lawyers at the firm providing the service, but this does at least provide a means of identification for who is paying for the advertising,” said Jules B. Olsman, president of Olsman MacKenzie & Wallace in Berkley.

The rule change proposal that Olsman referred to states: “Services of a lawyer or law firm that are advertised under the heading of a phone number, web address, image, or icon shall identify the lawyers or law firm providing the services. Any website advertising the services of a lawyer or law firm must contain the names of the attorneys providing the services.”

Olsman has been involved with the rule change effort for years, and argued in favor of it at a Michigan Supreme Court public hearing a week before the order was issued.

“When I was arguing the matter this week, I said you could call this the ‘who are you’ rule,” Olsman said. “Justice Bernstein had some questions as to how far we’re going towards regulating attorney advertising, and my position is this isn't a means of regulating advertising, it’s aimed at identifying the

people who are advertising. I couldn’t see any pushback to that.”

Olsman said the idea behind the rule change is to protect the public and the legal profession by creating more transparency as to who is paying for the content of advertisements throughout the state.

“We're not done yet. In my opinion, I thought this was a reasonable first step. Justice Markman asked if I thought we should wait for an [American Bar Association] rule, but I told him I personally wasn't the least bit interested in what the ABA has to say about this, I’m interested in protecting the residents and legal profession of Michigan. I'm not interested in what the ABA does,” Olsman said.

By Sept. 1, advertisements will need to display the name, office address and business phone number of a lawyer responsible for the content of the ad. “This isn’t about advertising, it’s about who’s advertising. It’s not about the content, it’s about who’s paying for it and who is the person providing the service,” Olsman said.