For most of the Twentieth Century, lawyer advertising was prohibited. Beginning with the Canons of Ethics ("Canons"), adopted by the American Bar Association (the "ABA" or "Association") in 1908, it was unethical for lawyers to advertise or engage in most forms of marketing. The 1977 United States Supreme Court decision of Bates v. State Bar of Arizona held that, under the First Amendment doctrine of commercial speech, states did not have the right to ban lawyer advertising. The decision, however, gave states the responsibility to regulate this activity. This began an experiment to balance consumer protection with the flow of legal commerce that continues on a state-by-state basis today.
William E. Hornsby Jr.,
Ad Rules Infinitum: The Need for Alternatives to State-Based Ethics Governing Legal Services Marketing,
U. Rich. L. Rev.
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