Lawyers have to follow three basic concepts when advertising. The first is to remain factual and truthful in every ad. There should also be a label that what you’re promoting is an advertisement. Lastly, the ad should contain a disclaimer where necessary. Given these principles, let’s take a look at what attorneys can and cannot say in different scenarios.
Web Content, Ad Copies, and Emails
When it comes to online content, the rules are fairly straightforward. The main restriction is that you cannot publish an unsubstantiated claim. For example, you cannot say you are your state’s “best bankruptcy attorney” if you have no facts to prove it. The URL bestbankruptcylawyer.com would be unethical. Your best bet is to avoid the use of marketing speak as much as possible.
Email marketing is an acceptable practice. But as the experts at Lawyer Marketing Expert explain it, you have to provide an option for recipients to opt out of the service. This respects the recipient’s desire to not receive such promotional material.
The regulations for the citation of awards as a marketing material vary from state to state. Some areas would require you to indicate that the Supreme Court doesn’t recognize the award and/or the ad. There are also locations where you have to include the award-giving body and the selection criteria for the award. For good measure, mention nothing but the facts.
Lawyers cannot advertise awards they have paid for as well.
The Case of Past Cases
Attorneys are free to discuss past cases on their websites provided that the client has given informed consent for it. By then, the only restriction would be state-specific guidelines and the provisions of the American Bar’s Model Rule 1.6, which prohibits you from disclosing certain information about the representation of a client, including secrets or confidences.
Highly specific rules govern the word “specialize” for lawyers. Some states would require certification for it, while others would allow it as long as there is no implication that you are certified as a specialist. To be safe, use alternatives to “specialists” or your respective practice area (e.g. divorce attorney, personal injury lawyer) to refer to yourself.
Every state bar has its own set of ethical guidelines for lawyers. It is important to consult these first before pushing forward an ad campaign.
Advertising may be a touchy subject for lawyers, but it isn’t that hard to promote a firm while following industry ethics. As long as you stick to the guidelines, you wouldn’t run into any trouble with your ads.