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May 12, 2010

STATE BAR ASSOCIATION ISSUES STATEMENT ON ATTORNEY SOLICITATION RESTRICTIONS FOLLOWING STATEN ISLAND FERRY ACCIDENT

In the wake of last weekend's ferry boat accident on Staten Island, New York State Bar Association President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City) today issued the following statement regarding attorney solicitation of ferry crash victims:

"It is essential that we remember the importance of respecting the privacy of these ferry crash victims.  I would also like to remind all members of the legal community that the Rules of Professional Conduct that became effective on April 1, 2009 prohibit attorneys from solicitation for a period of 30 days after an incident."

In March of this year, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 30-day ban against soliciting accident victims and their families through the media. In rejecting a constitutional challenge to the soliciting ban, the Second Circuit broadened the scope of protections previously given to bereaved or injured individuals. Significantly, the court held that there was no need to adopt a technology-specific approach to restricting lawyer advertising. The court recognized that email, radio streams online, television programming on the Web, and Internet communications can be just as intrusive as receiving a direct-mail solicitation.

In 2005, the State Bar established a Task Force on Advertising, chaired by Immediate Past President Bernice K. Leber of New York City (Arent Fox LLP), which for the first time in 30 years reviewed all of the ethics rules affecting lawyer advertising. The task force report made suggestions on how the rules may be improved to uphold the standards of the legal profession.

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Founded in 1876, the 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. The State Bar's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.