State Advertising Rules Shouldn’t be Taken Lightly

12 Mar, 2015
Know the rules

Each state has their own rules and regulations when it comes to legal advertising. Many states have cracked down on lawyers who publish their biggest case wins on the grounds that those statistics can be misleading. Personal injury attorneys, for example, must often follow strict rules about how they can report on their past successes.

Does your state have strict rules that you are breaking on your website?

Here are some highlights by state:

California
Rule 1-400 (D) (2) states that a communication or solicitation shall not contain any matter which tends to confuse the public.

Florida
Rules 4-7.13(a)(2)-(b)(2) and 4-7.14(a)(2). They prohibit even information that is “literally accurate, but could reasonably mislead a prospective client regarding a material fact.

Illinois
Rule 7.4(c) states that you can’t use the term “certified” unless you are referring to a specific award, certificate or recognition.

Massachusetts
Rule 7.1 has a comment that reads “Statements that compare a lawyer’s services with another lawyer’s services and statements that create unjustified expectations about the results the lawyer can achieve would violate Rule 7.1 if they constitute “false or misleading” communications under the Rule.”

New York
Rule 7.1 allows “statements that are reasonably likely to create an expectation about results the lawyer can achieve”, so long as “it can be factually supported” and is “accompanied by the following disclaimer : ‘Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.’”

Pennsylvania
Rule 7.2 requires all advertising to be kept for two years after its last dissemination.

Texas
Rule 7.041(e) requires that “ All advertisements in the public media for a lawyer or firm must be reviewed and approved in writing by the lawyer or a lawyer in the firm.”

Visit your State Bar Association regularly to get the most accurate information about your state’s advertising rules.

It is also important that your web design company understand the rules that govern your state when it comes to what can and can’t be said on your website. You may wish to consider sending a copy of your state’s rules to your webmaster and ask that they review the rules and ensure your site is in compliance. In the end, state bar associations hold the attorney – not their staff or outside contractors – responsible to ensure that website information is not misleading or in violation of state rules.

In my 14 years building and marketing websites for lawyers, I have habitually reviewed clients’ individual state advertising rules, but deferred to my clients on the nuances of those rules. For example, in 2013, a client alerted me to a change in Florida’s advertising rules, and we quickly made adjustments to his content to bring him into compliance with the new rule. If we all stay aware of the rule requirements and changes, we have a better chance of staying in compliance.

Most states’ website advertising rules agree on two main points: 1) Don’t mislead the public; and 2) Don’t leave out critical information. The viewer of the website must be able to make a reasonable decision about your legal background and casework.

Advertising is all about perception, with the goal of convincing the viewer of your website that you are a better lawyer than the attorney down the street. Don’t get your firm in trouble by not knowing the boundaries and rules. A little time spent now can save a lot of time and stress later.

Contact Us

Do you have a website that needs help? Are your graphics out of date or is your site lagging behind your competitors? Email me today at dan@lawfirmsites.com and I will provide a free evaluation of both your site and ranking strategy. No obligation or pressure. Feel free to call at (800) 932-8242. Also, I can likely answer most of your questions in three minutes or less.

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