Lawyer Advertising Pioneer Lauds the Consumer Benefits of His Landmark U.S. Supreme Court Case

Share Article

June 27th marks the 34th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision giving lawyers and other professional services providers the right to advertise (Bates and O’Steen v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, 1977). Before this decision, lawyers in all 50 states were prohibited from advertising. Phoenix attorney Van O’Steen, who was a party to that case, says consumers are the greatest beneficiaries of advertising by lawyers.

Van O'Steen

The public is well served by truthful lawyer advertising. Truthful marketplace information, even when delivered in an undignified way, is still information, and it always has value to someone.

June 27th marks the 34th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision giving lawyers and other professional services providers the right to advertise (Bates and O’Steen v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, 1977). Before this decision, lawyers in all 50 states were prohibited from advertising. Phoenix attorney Van O’Steen, who was a party to that case, says consumers are the greatest beneficiaries of advertising by lawyers.

“Advertising remains unpopular among many members of the bar,” O’Steen said. “The stated reason for their opposition to it generally is that some of it is undignified, although the real reasons are likely more complex.”

O’Steen notes that available economic research reveals that:

1.    Stricter regulation of advertising in all product and service markets produces the unintended harmful effect of less advertising, rather than more informational advertising or more dignified messages;

2.    The less use sellers make of advertising, the less competitive the market; and

3.    The less competitive a market, the higher product or service prices will be.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bates and O’Steen v. State Bar of Arizona, four substantial studies were conducted to determine the effect of lawyer advertising on the price of legal services. Two were funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, and another was conducted by the Federal Trade Commission. All the studies came to the same conclusion: lawyer advertising has resulted in lower prices for legal services.

“Lawyers who charge low fees want to advertise that fact,” O’Steen said, “while those who charge high fees don’t want anyone to advertise.”

“The public is well served by truthful lawyer advertising,” O’Steen said. “Truthful marketplace information, even when delivered in an undignified way, is still information, and it always has value to someone,” he added.

About O’Steen & Harrison, PLC

O’Steen & Harrison, PLC has protected the rights of injured accident victims and their family members since 1974. The firm concentrates on personal injury, medical malpractice and dangerous products with a special emphasis on harmful drugs and defective medical devices. O’Steen & Harrison is av-rated (the highest rating) by the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. The firm’s attorneys have recovered more than $3 billion dollars for clients.

RESOURCES: Steven R. Cox, Advertising Restrictions Among Professionals: Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, in THE ANTITRUST REVOLUTION 134, 145-46 (John E. Kwoka, Jr. & Lawrence J. White eds., 1989); John R. Schroeter et al., Advertising and Competition in Routine Legal Service Markets: An Empirical Investigation, 36 J. INDUST ECON. 49 (1987); Federal Trade Commission, Staff Report on Improving Consumer Access to Legal Services: The Case for Removing Restrictions on Truthful Advertising (Nov. 1984); Timothy Muris & Fred McChesney, Advertising and the Price and Quality of Legal Services: The Case for Legal Clinics, 1979 AM. B. FOUND. RES. J. 179.

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Van O'Steen