If you’re planning to do more law firm advertising in 2022, be sure to comply with the ethical rules in your state.
The specifics vary from state to state, but most cover the same basics. In general, they dictate what you can say in the ad and how you can identify yourself. They prohibit making false claims. Some require disclaimers.
Failure to follow the rules can result in a State Bar grievance or malpractice claim.
“Under no circumstances should you make a claim that is misleading, could be considered dishonest or stretching the truth,” writes law tech expert Sarah Bottorff for The National Law Review. “That means avoiding making any bold statements that could be deceiving, like guaranteeing you’ll win your client’s cases. The same goes for making superlative claims like you’re ‘the best lawyer.’ Simply put, don’t make any promises that you can’t keep. Instead, stick to the facts that no one can dispute. When in doubt, always double-check any statements and make sure you can prove them.”
Here are some other advertising tips from Bottorff:
- Don’t create unrealistic expectations. “Although you may have gotten one client a considerable amount of money for their claim, it’s dishonest to claim you can do the same for every client,” says Bottorff.
- Take care with testimonials. “On your testimonials page, you may likely have bold statements from prior clients making claims like ‘My lawyer won my case and made me richer than I ever dreamed of!’ which is entirely possible, however, it doesn’t guarantee that every client will have the same outcome working with you,” she writes.
- Don’t hold yourself out as a specialist if you’re not. Each state has different requirements for becoming a legal specialist, which typically include peer recommendations, years of experience, and passing an exam.
- Don’t solicit clients. Print ads, pay-per-clicks and billboards are fine. But soliciting your services to individual clients is forbidden. Know your state’s rules!
Read “Law Firm Marketing – Advertising Rules” in The National Law Review here.
Are you taking advantage of the valuable resources available through the Alta Pro Risk Purchasing Group (RPG)? If not, register here and start enjoying the benefits. When your law practice has professional liability coverage through Alta Pro Insurance, you’re automatically enrolled in the RPG. Among the benefits: free, cutting-edge CLE webinars featuring top experts tackling timely topics; the Pro Practice Playbook; the Pro Practice Blog; Reminger’s ProLink risk management assistance; Reminger’s Claim Repair Hotline; discounts on CLIO practice management software; and access to the Risk Pro, who can help keep your firm safe and successful. Stay ahead of the curve with Alta Pro Risk Purchasing Group.
ABA Model Rule 7.1 – Lawyer Advertising
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 statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.
Comment  This Rule governs all communications about a lawyer’s services, including advertising. Whatever means are used to make known a lawyer’s services, statements about them must be truthful.
Comment  Misleading truthful statements are prohibited by this Rule. A truthful statement is misleading if it omits a fact necessary to make the lawyer’s communication considered as a whole not materially misleading. A truthful statement is misleading if a substantial likelihood exists that it will lead a reasonable person to formulate a specific conclusion about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services for which there is no reasonable factual foundation. A truthful statement is also misleading if presented in a way that creates a substantial likelihood that a reasonable person would believe the lawyer’s communication requires that person to take further action when, in fact, no action is required.
Comment  A communication that truthfully reports a lawyer’s achievements on behalf of clients or former clients may be misleading if presented so as to lead a reasonable person to form an unjustified expectation that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances of each client’s case. Similarly, an unsubstantiated claim about a lawyer’s or law firm’s services or fees, or an unsubstantiated comparison of the lawyer’s or law firm’s services or fees with those of other lawyers or law firms, may be misleading if presented with such specificity as would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the comparison or claim can be substantiated. The inclusion of an appropriate disclaimer or qualifying language may preclude a finding that a statement is likely to create unjustified expectations or otherwise mislead the public.
Sources: ABA Model Rules and Law Firm Marketing: Advertising Rules for Lawyers (natlawreview.com)
Want a discount on Clio practice management software products? You’re eligible if you practice in Wisconsin, Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana or Michigan and are a member of the Alta Pro Lawyers RPG. In addition to Clio discounts, you’ll get access to free webinars, the Pro Practice Playbook, Reminger ProLink, Ask the Risk Pro and more. Here’s how to join.