For most of the 20th century, bar associations forbade nearly all forms of attorney advertising; you could be disbarred for hawking your services on anything other than a business card. Bar associations thought big bold ads were unprofessional, would stir up unnecessary lawsuits, would drive up prices and could even result in a decrease in the quality of legal services, thanks to increased competition. In the 1970s, the Supreme Court ruled that such "commercial speech" by lawyers was subject to First Amendment protection, and that was the end of the ban.

These days, lawyers are famous for being among the loudest of local advertisers, and our airwaves and billboards are flooded with ads that make my skin crawl a bit -- in particular, the price wars on who can offer the cheapest divorce (the example above caused an uproar and was ripped down by the city of Chicago after just a week) inspire in me a momentary pessimism about human nature.

Best of all, though, are the TV ads. Check out these two excellently slimy commercials, both by guys who call themselves "The Hammer."




So, I ask you -- was the seventy-year ban on lawyer ads the right thing to do?