Undercurrents

As defenders of both freedom and free enterprise, "Undercurrents" sounds the alarm on a threat to those colorful individuals who make life in South Florida so special: lawyers trying to make a buck.

The state legislature, having solved such minor problems as crime and overcrowded schools, now focuses on a really serious issue: tightening the screws on lawyers who advertise. No slogans, no attention-grabbing come-ons, just "tombstone"-style ads limited to dull facts like qualifications and experience.

This legislative assault on legal creativity is being led by Broward's own State Sen. Walter G. "Skip" Campbell, Jr., a lawyer who limits his professional self-promotion to one teeny tiny line in the Yellow Pages. Of course Campbell also has a net worth of $8.8 million.

The senator says he's been personally offended by hard-sell ads but offers an even more compelling legal argument for restrictions: Jurors may be so turned off by the ads that they don't listen to plaintiffs' lawyers in personal-injury cases. (That means juries may award less money to plaintiffs, which means less money for lawyers.)

It's not as though the state's lawyers are running wild in TV land. They're already governed by Florida Bar rules that ban fun things like jingles and dramatic reenactments (lawyers swaying juries, accident victims holding $100 bills, lawyers shopping for Mercedes Benzes). Even the U.S. Supreme Court upheld limits on the free-speech rights of lawyers, in a landmark case, Florida Bar v. Went For It, Inc.

We think they have suffered enough. Their ads contribute so much to the richness of South Florida life, reveal so much about the character, the intellectual depth of the South Florida Bar. Consider these Yellow Pages insights:

For visuals, print-ad lawyers tend to be conservative, picturing the obvious: handcuffs and keys, the American flag, the back of the Volkswagen. One ad, perhaps seeking political clients features the United States Capitol under the headline "ARRESTED?"

It is with words that South Florida lawyers work their magic.
First there are the sensitive, touchy-feely lawyers.
"Preserving Family Values With Compassion and Dedication," promises Debra P. Rochlin, who features a picture of herself holding a baby.

"All Injuries Are Personal," consoles David Krathen, while David W. Singer almost sheds tears: "Seriously injured? It shouldn't happen to a nice person like you. Let me be your accident attorney. I care."

Enough of that. Bring on the macho ads.
Norman Rose boasts "THE EXPERIENCE TO WIN!" and Michael Feinman practically barks, "AGGRESSIVE ATTORNEYS," "INJURY OR DEATH, YOU NEED OUR HELP," presumably more so if you're not dead.

Then there are the lawyers of the bottom line.
"WE HELP INJURED PEOPLE GET MAXIMUM CASH AWARDS!" Weinstein & Scharf shout, while Daniel R. Rosen promises, "Our attorneys will get you every single dollar you have coming." Mr. Rosen also has an eagle coming out of his head.

Finally, there is Cohen & Cohen, which has a dignified, understated half-page ad reading simply, "AS SEEN ON TV."

So leave the lawyers alone, Skip. The public deserves to see them as they really are.

Undercurrents wants to know about any and all political deals, media screwups, and particularly dumb memos from bureaucrats. Let us know. Call 954-233-1572, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail undercurrents@newtimesbroward.com.

 
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