Is Advertising by Lawyers Entitled to Protection by the First Amendment ?
In Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977), the Court decided that advertising by lawyers was a form of commercial speech entitled to protection by the First Amendment.
Justice Powell summarized the standards applicable to such claims for the unanimous Court in In re R. M. J., 455 U.S. 191, 203 (1982):
"Truthful advertising related to lawful activities is entitled to the protections of the First Amendment. But when the particular content or method of the advertising suggests that it is inherently misleading or when experience has proved that in fact such advertising is subject to abuse, the States may impose appropriate restrictions. Misleading advertising may be prohibited entirely. But the States may not place an absolute prohibition on certain types of potentially misleading information, e. g., a listing of areas of practice, if the information also may be presented in a way that is not deceptive. . . .
"Even when a communication is not misleading, the State retains some authority to regulate. But the State must assert a substantial interest and the interference with speech must be in proportion to the interest served."