Nearly everything is advertised in Los Angeles, a place where one car salesman interrupts the nightly televised movie by saying he'll stand on his head to make any deal."
Now, legal services have heen added to the advertising lists. Relying on a Supreme Court decision of June 27 that permits legal advertising for the first time, the Legal Clinic of Jacoby and Meyers has launched the first large-scale television advertising campaign for cut-rate legal services.
During the next few weeks Los Angeles viewers will be bombarded with up to 85 television spots a week informing them that there is an alternative to the high-priced lawyer they night find in the yellow pages.
The legal clinic's ads are a far cry from the shrieking furniture salesmen and mysterious spot remover specialists who afflict the after-midnight television watcher in Southern in Southern California.
In the Clinic's first ad, which ran at 25 a.m. on a recent Friday during a break in the CBS morning news, an ordinary-looking man clad in sweater and slacks strolled in front of the camera and announced: "If you've got a legal problem and you're rich, you can afford and attorney. If you've poor, you get free legal aid. But if you're in the middle, you should know about a law firm called the Legal Clinic of Jacoby and Meyers.
"Your consultaion with an attorney, $15. Your fee, very reasonable, with an estimate in writing. It's about time."
This 30-second spot, which concluded with the telephone numbers of the clinic's locations, seems like blatant hucksterism to old-line members of the California Bar. Some of whom tried to put Jacoby & Meyers out of business before they were started.
Soon after Leonard Jacoby and Stephen Z. Meyers founded the first legal clinic in the country in 1972, the California bar brought charges against them for alleged unprofessional conduct. The accisation was that the two Los Angeles lawyers had engaged in "adverstising and solicitation," a charge then based on statements they had made to newspaper reporters.
The Bar Association recommended that they be suspended for 45 days, but the California Supreme Court, final arbiter in such matters, this year ruled in Jacoby & Meyer' favor on a 5-to-1 decision.
Even with this decision in their favor and the subsequent U.S. Supreme Court upholding of legal advertising in an Arizina case, the path has not been easy for Jacoby & Meyers. The high court's decision permits state bar associations to regulate the manner and placing of advertising, and said that television advertising presented unspecified "special problems."
As a result the California bar's board of Governors is in the process of drawing up regulations that conceivably could limit or even prohibit television advertising. The possibility o such limitations is one of the reasons that Jacoby & Meyers has launched the advertising campaign. Meyers considers the firm's ads innocuous and says that most attorneys who see them will find them acceptable.
"If the bar sees that legal advertising isn't any chamber of horrors, they're more likely to make reasonable rules," Meyers says.
But some influential attorneys regard any television advertising as offensive.
Los Angeles attorney Joseph Cummins, a member of the bar's Board of Governors and chairman of its disciplinary board, equates Jacoby & Meyers with "advertising dentists" and says he doesn't even want to see their ad.
"I don't thich television advertising is good for the public, and I don't think it's good for the bar," said Cummins. "But it may make Jacoby & Meyers a lot of money."
That much seems certain. Starting with one clinic in Van Nuys, Jacoby & Meyers now employs 16 attorneys, and this month is opening its fifth and sixth clinics, in Downey and Santa Barbara.
Meyers says that they have tapped a middle-class market of people who were afraid of lawyers or frightened at the perspective charges in any legal case. Clinics such as Jacoby & Meyers are regarded as an economic threat by many attorneys, who see the clinics as siphoning off profitable business from divorces and the drawing of wills.
The uneasiness of the legal profession has communicated itself to the television networks, two of which have so far declined to accept Jacoby & Meyers ads.
The firm got a quick affirmative response from the Los Angeles affiliate of CBS, but the local stations owned and operated by NBC and ABC bucked their decisions to network headquarters.
So far, there has been no decision on the advertising request by either network.
Meyers said that an ABC official told him that the network was "waiting to see what the American Bar Association would do" on the issue. The ABA at its recent Chicago convention approved a resolution permitting some forms of advertising, including radio but not television commercials.
"I tried to explain to them [the ABC officials] that the American Bar Association was a voluntary trade association which I did not belong to and that it had no power over the station," said Meyers. "That was a week and a half ago, and I haven't heard back."
Without waiting for ABC and NBC, Meyers has placed advertising on four Los Angeles television stations, with the spots concentrated during news programs and movies.
He also has received a lot of free publicity from stories in California newspapers about his advertising.
This time it may be more difficult for the California Bar Association to take action against the legal clinic. Thanks to Gow. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Board of Governors now has nearly one third public members are considered unlikely to support a complete prohibition of television advertising.
It is still possible that the Board of Governors will impose, as Cummins suggests they should, a limit on the volume and cost of television advertising as well as a prohibition on "misleading advertising." Meyers declines to say how much the legalclinic is spending on ads, but it is clear from the volume that a five-figure campaign is planned.