The Connecticut Hearing on Total Attorneys’ Advertising Model has Begun

We are finally underway in the Connecticut hearing.  Connecticut’s Chief Disciplinary Counsel, the state official responsible for prosecuting all attorney disciplinary complaints on which there has been a preliminary finding of probable cause, began presenting his case on Thursday in support of the charge common to five Connecticut attorneys:  that their payments to Total Attorneys allegedly were made in exchange for “recommending” their “services” within the meaning of the prohibition of Rule 7.2(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

You can read more about the original complaint that was submitted in Connecticut and other jurisdictions here: Pay Per Performance Marketing Under Attack – Total Attorneys Responds

In an all day evidentiary hearing in Hartford, Disciplinary Counsel called two witnesses in his case: the Complainant – Zenas Zelotes – and one of the charged attorneys, Matthew Rousseau. After both witnesses finished their testimony, the Committee, in accordance with its rules of procedure, then permitted Mr. Zelotes to make a statement. The hearing was then adjourned.

It is my understanding that the hearing panel demonstrated an appreciation for all of the issues presented in this case and had read and examined all of the pre-hearing briefs.  The five sponsors are represented by two defense counsel, Kim Knox of Horton, Shields & Knox, P.C. and David Atkins of Pullman & Comley LLC.  For more information, read the full defense briefs:

David Atkins’s Brief in Zelotes v. Rousseau

Kim Knox’s Brief in Zelotes v. Rousseau

The complainant also filed a brief of his own which is posted here: Zelotes Brief.  It is consistent with the tone and style of his previous filings. Note that Disciplinary Counsel, in his Memorandum of Fact and Law, takes the position that the First Amendment is irrelevant to the grievance matter.

Given the witnesses that remain, the proceeding may take multiple hearing dates, which remain to be scheduled. NYU Professor Stephen Gillers, a widely renowned figure on legal and judicial ethics, and Tim Stanley,  CEO of Justia, will serve as expert witnesses for the sponsors.

You can also read more about the issues surrounding this case in the recent Forbes article, which will be appearing in the magazine’s next print issue.

I hope that the resolution of this hearing can shed more light on group advertising services and pay-per-performance marketing as they apply to attorney Internet advertising. I remain confident in our business model and appreciate the continuing support of our participating attorneys across the country.  We will continue to support all of our sponsors through this process until our model is proven.