COLUMBUS, Ohio — Attorneys in Ohio now are free to use celebrities or other clients in advertisements touting their legal expertise.
The Ohio Supreme Court on Jan. 24 ordered all of the state's legal disciplinary boards to quit enforcing a part of the attorneys' code of conduct that bans client testimonials. The most severe penalty for the provision was loss of legal license.
The ruling is part of an agreement settling a federal lawsuit filed by Columbus attorney Bret Adams, who represents coaches and broadcasters, including former NFL linebacker Chris Spielman and former NBA coach George Karl.
Adams filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in April because the state's ethics rules prevented him from running newspaper ads with testimonials from Spielman and Karl. The lawsuit named the state Supreme Court's seven justices as defendants.
"From my standpoint, the case was far more about free speech than it was about advertising," said Adams, who dropped the suit when the court dropped the restriction. "My position has always been, who better to vouch for you than your client?"
Court spokesman Chris Davey said justices were moving in that direction anyway. Davey said the court would consider adopting model rules from the American Bar Association that recommend eliminating a restriction on testimonials.
Officials said the court's Task Force on the Rules of Professional Conduct would submit final recommendations in the next couple of months.