TBA Law Blog

Posted by: William Haltom on Jan 1, 2018

Journal Issue Date: Jan 2018

Journal Name: January 2018 - Vol. 54, No. 1

In 1977, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 US 350 (1977), holding that lawyer advertising is a form of commercial speech that is entitled to protection under the First Amendment.

Some 40 years later, literally thousands of lawyers across America are engaging in commercial speech, and when I say commercial speech, I mean commercial speech. You can turn on your television at any hour of the day or night and see commercials in which lawyers proudly announce that they are available 24/7 to take your call and take your case! These advertising lawyers are often accompanied by talking dogs, parrots, and in some cases, “actual clients,” giving testimonials of how their lawyer won them a very nice settlement, sometimes with only one phone call!

Some of the advertising lawyers have jingles that feature their telephone numbers. In my hometown of Memphis, Corey B. Trotz of the NST Law Firm is regularly seen on TV as a background singer croons, “NST is the way to go, call 683-7-oh!-oh!-oh!!”

When my daughter Margaret was no more than five years old, we saw Corey Trotz as the Haltom family was boarding a plane for vacation. I said, “Hi, Corey!”

My daughter immediately recognized him and became very excited to see a real, live TV lawyer celebrity. Right there on the plane, she began to sing, “Corey B. Trotz is the way to go! Call 683-7-oh!-oh!-oh!”

I then asked my princess what my phone number was. She had no idea. She could call Corey B. Trotz, but she could not call her father.

But these days, even lawyers who don’t advertise on TV are engaging in print advertising. The most common form of such advertising is by the so-called “Super Lawyers.”

Super Lawyers is a rating service that each November publishes a list of “outstanding lawyers” from some 70 practice areas. The lists are published in Super Lawyers Magazine. And it’s not just the list that is published in Super Lawyers Magazine. Literally hundreds of lawyers chosen for this honor advertise in the magazine, proudly announcing that Super Lawyers has given them a title worthy of an action figure! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a Super Lawyer!

When I was a little boy, I was a big fan of Superman, both on TV and in comic books. (I was the kid sitting in the back of the class pretending to study when I actually had a Superman D.C. comic book tucked surreptitiously inside my history textbook.)

I followed the trials and tribulations of mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent of the Daily Planet. Whenever a bad guy such as Lex Luthor was about to take over the world, Clark would find the nearest phone booth and change into his Superman outfit. Thereafter he would emerge from the phone booth as the Man of Steel, faster than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!

In 1978 I watched the late, great Christopher Reeve play Superman on the silver screen, as he won the heart of Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and beat bad guys, such as Gene Hackman.
After the first Superman movie, I then saw Superman II, Superman III, Superman IV, and my personal favorite, Superman V Attends Super Bowl XXXV.

And now, thanks to the Super Lawyer listing, I and hundreds of other Tennessee lawyers can proudly advertise ourselves as Super Lawyers! We can file lawsuits faster than a speeding bullet and leap over courthouses in a single bound!

Personally, I’m hoping that Super Lawyers will soon expand its list to name worthy Tennessee lawyers after other action figures.

For example, I would love to be named Spiderman Lawyer or Batman Lawyer. And how about Aquaman Lawyer? You can try a lawsuit under water!

This would be totally appropriate given the fact that the great fictional superheroes in the DC Comic Series are called … The Justice League!

That would in fact be the perfect supplement to Super Lawyers … The Justice League Lawyers!

What female lawyer in Tennessee would not like to be named Wonder Woman Lawyer?

What plaintiff’s lawyer wouldn’t love to be named Green Lantern Lawyer? (Suggested ad: Let the Green Lantern Lawyer collect the green for you!)

So here’s hoping that in 2018, Super Lawyers will expand so that Tennessee lawyers can start advertising ourselves as true Superhero Action Figure Lawyers!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to find a phone booth. I have a big trial coming up, and I need to change into my red cape, red boots, blue leotards, red pants, yellow belt and of course my blue jersey with the red S for Super Lawyer on it. But if Super Lawyers will expand its list and name me “Bat Lawyer,” I’m ready to dress as a caped crusader, jump into the Bat Lawyer mobile, and head to court accompanied by Robin, the Boy Wonder Paralegal!

Bill Haltom BILL HALTOM is a shareholder with the firm of Lewis Thomason. He is a past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and a past president of the Memphis Bar Association. Read his blog at www.billhaltom.com.