A Tempe law firm that bills itself as “beyond aggressive” expected an exclusive spot in Verizon’s Yellow Pages when it paid more than $100,000 for a full-color advertising insert in the book.
But when Verizon sold a similar cardboard “tab” ad to a competing firm, and gave it better placement in the book, the Law
Offices of David Michael Cantor filed a breach of contract suit in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Cantor says Verizon violated a written contract, and he was upset that the tab sold to the other firm was placed in front of the “attorney” listing in the book. His ad was placed toward the front of all the listings.
He said Verizon offered him gifts to make up for the slight.
“They went with the adage of forgiveness rather than permission. That doesn’t work with a law firm,” Cantor said.
Karen Testa, a Verizon spokeswoman in Dallas, declined comment.
The case highlights the highly competitive advertising by Valley law firms seeking clients through television and radio commercials, and telephone-book ads.
“Like any other business, they’re trying to create some market share,” said Laurence Winer, of Arizona State’s School of Law.
“Often, it’s newer or less established attorneys trying to break into a market.”
Winer said attorney advertising is still controversial, even though it’s been commonplace for more than a decade.
“I think it serves a valuable function for the public at large,” he said.
Attorney advertising in Arizona was against legal ethics until the 1970s, when attorney Van O’Steen won a state Supreme Court case. The court found attorneys have a First Amendment right to advertise.
Cantor’s civil and criminal practices are among the largest in the southeast Valley. His firm employs 15 attorneys and he has handled a number of high-profile cases.
Cantor’s best-known clients have included Patrick Haab, an Army reservist who was arrested, but eventually not prosecuted, for holding seven undocumented immigrants at gunpoint in April; Valinda Jo Elliott, who ignited the “Chediski” fire to get help while lost in northeastern Arizona in 2002, but did not face charges; and Michael Gherman, who was sentenced to life in prison in the murder of two Wal-Mart security guards.
Cantor, who lives in Paradise Valley, said that although he filed the suit, he has not served it on Verizon to make it official. He said he hopes the suit will “speed up” negotiations.
“I think ultimately we will resolve it amicably,” he said.
His goal is to negotiate a discount as compensation for the perceived slight. The suit seeks damages of $100,104, plus interest and attorneys fees.
He discovered the problem in May when a salesman delivered a copy of the Greater Phoenix Yellow Pages to the firm’s office. Cantor said he was stunned when he flipped through the book and discovered Verizon sold another tab to another Phoenix personal-injury firm.
The other Law Firm’s tab was placed in front of the attorneys listing. The tab that protrudes from the book making it easy to find, reads “car accident attorneys.” Cantor’s ad at the beginning of the book has a tab that lists only his e-mail address and made no mention that he is an attorney. The other attorney pictured in the other ad, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Cantor’s full-page ad touts his criminal firm and his civil firm, The Cantor Law Group.
“It’s invisible. It does nothing for us,” he said.
Cantor said he pays much more for a similar ad in Dex, Qwest’s Yellow Pages, but would not reveal the price. Qwest refused to reveal it, as well.
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