In re: Anonymous. Indiana attorney discipline, advertising
The Indiana attorney in this attorney discipline case has been a practicing attorney for 41 years wtihout any history of discipline. He was affiliated with the American Association of Motorcycle Injury Lawyers (AAMIL), an Arizona for-profit corporation. The AAMIL has the trademark "Law Tigers," and the attorney had a license for exclusive use of this and other trademarks in Indiana. Indiana phone calls to the toll-free Law Tigers phone number were automatically routed to his number. He could also be contacted through the Law Tigers website, which included a wide variety of information for bikers. If they searched for an attorney, he was listed as the exclusive Law Tigers attorney in Indiana.
The Law Tigers website included many testimonials. It also had a link to the attorney's own website. The firm website stated that he was not allowed to include information about settlements or verdicts. However, it was possible to contact the attorney without visiting this website.
The lawyer also distributed AAMIL promotional materials, which included his name and phone number, but not his office address. The attorney discipline commission charged the attorney with various violations including false or misleading information based on past performance, not including his office address, accepting referrals from an unqualified referral service, improperly giving something of value for a recommendation, and improperly using a trade name.
Even though many of the violations were on the Law Tigers website, the Supreme Court agreed that the average viewer would not differentiate between the Law Tigers website and the attorney. Therefore, he was responsible for those violations.
The attorney admitted that he had violated Rule 7.2 by not including his office address on communications, a requirement that had been added to the rule in 2011.
The Court noted the attorney's 41 year unblemished record and the fact that he had cooperated fully. It also noted that he had exercised due diligence before entering into the contract with AAMIL. Finally, the court did take note of the disclaimers on his own website. Due to these mitigating factors, the Court determined that a private reprimand was appropriate. They also assessed costs of $250 and ordered the opinion published.
No. No. 45S00-1301-DI-33 (Ind. April 11, 2014).
Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.
Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).
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