The First Amendment Comes After the GA Bar

The modern era of attorney business marketing probably started in 1977 with the Supreme Court decision in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, which upheld the surprisingly novel argument that the Constitution applies to the regulation of lawyers.

Georgia and some other states still have some vestiges of rules that try to deny the modern business nature of law firms. The Courts are about to force a change again.

Salt Lake City based LawHQ seeks to have offices in all 50 states by the end of the year, but 9 states, including Georgia, forbid trade names for law firms and require that they have the name of an attorney in the firm name. LawHQ has filed a lawsuit citing the first amendment and seeking the right to open offices using the firm trade name. The nine states targeted are Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas. All require law firm names to include the name of a lawyer practicing at the firm, the suits say.

I don’t know anyone that doesn’t think this suit will likely be successful (or many that understand why this rule hasn’t been changed without the need for litigation).

UPDATE:  In response to the lawsuit, the Supreme Court of Georgia amended Rule 7.5 to no longer require a lawyer’s name in the firm name. The amendment became effective February 6, 2020.


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