It has been reported that Cellino & Barnes, a law firm in western New York, has approximately 150 billboards advertising their law firm. Of course, the law firm name of Cellino & Barnes is prominently displayed on the billboards. Recently, one of its principal attorneys Ross M. Cellino was suspended for six months from the practice of law.
The Appellate Division, 4th Department said that an attorney who is suspended cannot hold himself out as a lawyer. Consequently, the law firm changed its name to The Barnes Firm and and will now have to change every one of its billboards. At a cost of approximately $1,000 in printing and installation costs to change a large billboard, this will cost the law firm just a few dollars to change approximately 150 billboards.
In addition to the billboards, the law firm also has to change all of their TV commercials, radio commercials and other advertising. Additionally, since the law firm has spent a considerable amount of money branding its name, considerable damage will be done to the law firm brand by changing the name.
One interesting question is the law firm’s yellow page advertising. Obviously, the yellow page books have already been printed and distributed. They cannot be recalled. Will the 4th Department have to let the law firm slide on this one or should the firm be required to put a message on the phone number advertised saying that the firm is no longer in business? When advertising in all of the yellow page books is renewed, the new advertising will have to show the name of the law firm as The Barnes Firm. When Mr. Cellino’s suspension is up after six months he will have to wait for his name to reappear in the yellow page books.
The moral of this story is that when advertising, always be on your best behavior and make sure that everyone in the firm is.