Court Entertains Suit about Agent Advertising

May 8, 2004

Just how aggressively can you market your prowess as a sports agent?
That question is now front and center in an Ohio federal court, where a sports agent has sued seven justices on the state supreme court, claiming that a rule preventing him from publishing advertisements with client testimonials is unconstitutional.
Attorney Bret Adams, who wants to run advertisements featuring former Ohio State football player Chris Spielman and former professional basketball coach George Karl, is claiming specifically that the state’s professional conduct regulation violates his First Amendment rights of free speech.
Adams and his attorney, Joel H. Mirman of Columbus, will be relying heavily on a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the high court ruled that the state of Arizona could not bar lawyers from advertising. They also claim that other courts have supported that decision.
At least one sports agent, Ralph Cindrich of Cindrich and Company, agrees with Adams and his attorney.
“I don’t know of any such advertising restriction on sports agents,” Cindrich, who is also a lawyer, told Sports Litigation Alert. “In my view, the rules of the ABA and other such organizations that address ethics aren’t applicable to sports agents, even if you are an attorney.”
Cindrich compared the lack of enforced advertising regulations on sports agents to the fact that agents’ feet aren’t held to the fire when they disclose contract terms and other confidential information, per players’ association rules, seemingly in violation of attorney-client privilege.
Ray Sweigart of Pillsbury Winthrop in Virginia was less absolute.
“While objectively truthful advertising is permitted, anything inherently misleading, deceptive, false or overreaching is prohibited,” said Sweigert, an agent who is a member of Ohio, Connecticut, New York, DC and Virginia bars.
He added that he believes agents are supposed to abide by attorney ethics as opposed to agent ethics.
“Since agents represent other individuals in matters involving legal rights and obligations, as well as business and financial matters, there are many issues as to whether a non-attorney agent might cross the line into the unauthorized practice of law,” said Sweigert. “It is likewise difficult for the lawyer agent to separate the legal from the non-legal aspects of the representation.”


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