California State Bar Guidelines and Rules
Your California firm will need to follow the State Bar of California’s advertising rules if you wish to have an online marketing presence. If you’re not careful, you may be subject to disciplinary actions.
Before you make any marketing plan, be sure to read through the rules listed by the California Rules of Professional Conduct.
These guidelines can be complicated, which is why you’ll want to contact a trusted marketing team that understands the Bar rules to ensure your website and advertisements follow the guidelines listed.
California’s Current Rules of Professional Conduct – This resource will detail the specific rules for lawyer communicating and advertising in California.
California Bar Ethics Opinions – This website includes ethics opinions and other helpful resources.
Key Rules to be Aware of
Rule 7.1 Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services
(a) A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the communication considered as a whole not materially misleading.
(b) The Board of Trustees of the State Bar may formulate and adopt standards as to communications that will be presumed to violate rule 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4 or 7.5. The standards shall only be used as presumptions affecting the burden of proof in disciplinary proceedings involving alleged violations of these rules. “Presumption affecting the burden of proof” means that presumption defined in Evidence Code sections 605 and 606. Such standards formulated and adopted by the Board, as from time to time amended, shall be effective and binding on all lawyers.
Rule 7.2 Advertising
(a) Subject to the requirements of rules 7.1 and 7.3, a lawyer may advertise services through any written,* recorded or electronic means of communication, including public media.
(b) A lawyer shall not compensate, promise or give anything of value to a person* for the purpose of recommending or securing the services of the lawyer or the lawyer’s law firm,* except that a lawyer may:
(1) pay the reasonable* costs of advertisements or communications permitted by this rule;
(2) pay the usual charges of a legal services plan or a qualified lawyer referral service. A qualified lawyer referral service is a lawyer referral service established, sponsored and operated in accordance with the State Bar of California’s Minimum Standards for a Lawyer Referral Service in California;
(3) pay for a law practice in accordance with rule 1.17;
(4) refer clients to another lawyer or a nonlawyer professional pursuant to an arrangement not otherwise prohibited under these Rules or the State Bar Act that provides for the other person* to refer clients or customers to the lawyer, if:
(i) the reciprocal referral arrangement is not exclusive; and
(ii) the client is informed of the existence and nature of the arrangement;
(5) offer or give a gift or gratuity to a person* having made a recommendation resulting in the employment of the lawyer or the lawyer’s law firm,* provided that the gift or gratuity was not offered or given in consideration of any promise, agreement, or understanding that such a gift or gratuity would be forthcoming or that referrals would be made or encouraged in the future.
(c) Any communication made pursuant to this rule shall include the name and address of at least one lawyer or law firm* responsible for its content.