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Say a new law firm wants to come up with a fresh and juicy marketing strategy to win a share of local law market.

They adopt a moral code which, although could be seen arguable, is nevertheless coherent and is consistently adhered to. In a nut shell, they only take clients that they think are good people and refuse to represent cheats, crooks and similar people that they call "assholes".

When they win yet another case, they put the defeated party (proved in court to be in breach or even convicted) on a page on their website called "The Assholes" where they summarise cases for each of them. They avoid labelling opponents not yet defeated in order to minimise claims of slander.

What kind of legal trouble would such a law firm face? Would it still be slander/defamation? Would they rather quickly lose their bar accreditation, or would they only become controversial but otherwise stand well?

(Any English-centric common law jurisdiction)

  • What would they do if/when the ruling was appealed? – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Aug 23 at 11:23
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    @ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere they'd be smart enough to wait out any appeal time frames. – Greendrake Aug 23 at 11:28
  • Probably in the clear legally, then. But if they're that smart they'd consider that slogans tend to attach to brands. "Ah yes, A,B&C Solicitors. The Assholes." – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Aug 23 at 11:41
  • In the past, the firm in question would market themselves as the assholes, or at least "the meanest SOB in town". en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Shapiro_(attorney) – user662852 Aug 23 at 15:32
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    If they refuse to represent 'cheats, crooks and similar people that they call "assholes,"' how are they going to find enough clients to stay in business? – jeffronicus Aug 23 at 15:40
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Calling someone an "asshole" is, at least in the US, an expression of opinion and so is not defamation. Saying that someone has committed a crime may be defamation, but not if that person has in fact already been convicted of that crime. In general if a statement is provably true, it is not defamation.

If all that this hypothetical firms does is to post facts as found in court decisions, along with their unfavorable opinions of losing parties who they did not rep[resent, it is hard to see any defamation case being valid. And I don't see any other obvious legal problem with doing this.

It would probably anger other lawyers, and might make it harder to negotiate settlements or do other deals.

If they (the firm) announce that they refuse to accept as clients "cheats, crooks and similar people" and then make it public that they refused to represent soem specific person, A, then A might claim that this portrayed him or her as a "cheat or crook" and was defamatory. The exact wording of their publicly announced policy, and of any announcements that they decline to represent A, would matter a good deal, as would the jurisdiction's exact law of defamation.

In some places, codes of ethics promulgated by a Bar Association might be violated by such a policy, but such codes are usually not enforceable in the general case.

I don't see any obvious grounds for disbarment proceedings.

  • Lawyers are adversarial in their jobs. Afterwards, they hang out together. But I could imagine some lawyers doing it if they could get away with it. I don't think judges would be too happy. I don't know, pure conjecture, but I don't think judges would appreciate if the lawyer for one side was disparaging of opposing lawyer, especially when they were working, either negotiating or in the courtroom, with or without a jury. – Wm Wolff - Law Exam Guides Aug 26 at 5:23

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