Cochran lawyers challenge Texas legal advertising rules

Chris Rizo Oct. 7, 2008, 5:13am

AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline)-The Cochran Firm, one of the largest plaintiffs' firms in the United States, is challenging the Texas State Bar's restrictions on legal advertising.

The prestigious law firm, an Alabama professional corporation with offices in Dallas and Houston, is specifically challenging a rule requiring the firm to submit its Web site pages for regulatory approval.

"Each plaintiff has heretofore engaged in advertising and other commercial speech by communicating information about their qualifications and experience as lawyers, and the legal services which they offer to persons in the State of Texas, and is being forced by the defendants to restrict or discontinue one or more of the forms of communications he or it has heretofore pursued and/or wishes to pursue," the lawsuit says.

The Cochran Firm was founded by the late Johnnie Cochran Jr., who gained national prominence defending O. J. Simpson when the former football star was charged with the murder of his former wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. The law firm has received verdicts, settlements and judgments totaling more than $45 billion, its Web site says.

Court papers say that on May 20, 2008, the Advertising Review Committee of the State Bar of Texas sent Cochran Firm lawyer William Edwards a letter indicating that the firm was in violation of Part 7 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct because they had not submitted their Web site for to the committee for approval.

In late June, the firm submitted an application to the committee, which responded with a request for more information, court papers say.

The committee found aspects of the firm's Web site in violation of its regulations. The firm said it addressed those concerns. The committee then sent another notice saying parts of the Internet site were not in compliance.

The Cochran Firm filed its lawsuit Oct. 3 in U.S. District Court for Western Texas in Austin.

"Plaintiffs enjoy the right to communicate freely with the public regarding the nature and quality and extent of the legal services that they offer to the public, and in the manner, form and content through which plaintiffs choose to so communicate, so long only as those communications are not false, deceptive or misleading," the complaint says.

The firm also argues that the State Bar's rules on legal advertising restricts competition among lawyers.

"Substantial restrictions on the advertising and other forms of commercial speech regarding legal services tend to dampen competition and leave consumers facing greater information costs when seeking the assistance of a provider of legal service," the firm argues in its lawsuit.

Filed by Mississippi attorney James Robertson, the lawsuit seeks to preliminarily and permanently enjoin and restrain the defendants and their successors from enforcing the rule.

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