If your law firm is not running digital ads, you are likely missing out on an abundance of potential clients. In this day and age, social media and paid social ads should be utilized by any firm that is serious about growth.
When looking into advertising, it is important to know the rules and regulations in your state regarding the legal advertising laws. Nowadays, social media has been a place where people feel free expressing thoughts, opinions, and passing information. It can be easy for law firms to fall into a false sense of security thinking that they can also engage in these types of behavior. When in reality, each firm must adhere to the guidelines of their respective state’s Rules of Professional Conduct.
The American Bar Association’s Model of the Rules of Professional Conduct acts as the base for states to write their own rules detailing how to ethically conduct yourself as a lawyer. The Rules of Professional Conduct outlines things like:
- When lawyers can and can not use contingent fees
- How lawyers are able to utilize client testimonials
- How lawyers can conduct themselves as witnesses along with so much more
It is important to know that each state bar association has the ability to add rules into their own Professional Conduct guide.
Distinct State-Specific Lawyer Ad Rules
States With Distinct Lawyer Advertising Rules
Florida, New York, California, and New Mexico are just some states with notable differences in lawyer advertising rules. Some examples include:
Florida Ad Rule: Visible Address
Florida requires each lawyer advertisement to have the law firm’s address prominently displayed, so that a potential client can locate the brick and mortar location associated with that advertisement.
New York Ad Rule: Cannot Use Active Cases
The New York Bar Association does not permit the use of client testimonials who have outstanding cases with the firm, so the client is able to give an unbiased review of the legal service they received from start to finish.
California Lawyer Ad Rule: Advertisement Disclaimer
California mandates that all advertisements have an advertisement disclaimer, disclosing what the viewer is seeing is indeed an advertisement.
New Mexico Ad Rule: Cannot Discuss Legal Fees
New Mexico does not allow lawyers to talk about legal fees in their advertisements.
The prior list shows only a few of the potential things to consider when thinking about advertising a law firm, so it is important to read and understand your state bar association’s Rules of Professional Conduct before entering the lawyer advertising space.
Lawyer Advertising Rules Everyone Should Follow
Even though each state has its own lawyer advertising rules, there are a couple of best practices that a law firm can use to potentially limit the amount of scrutiny their ads will receive. For instance:
1. Never claim to be an expert/specialist
The ABA does not allow lawyers to claim to be experts or specialists in any practice areas unless they are recognized as such by an ABA-accredited body.
2. Avoid false/misleading statements
There is a gray area for what exactly constitutes a false or misleading statement, but as a rule of thumb avoid superlatives. Don’t use phrases such as, “The Best Lawyer In Town” or “The Lowest Legal Fees”. Even if it is clear that you or your firm is the best in the area or does, in fact, offer the most cost-conscious payment structure, it is unethical to make these types of claims because of the subjectivity or potentially untrue nature of the statement.
3. Avoid blanket statements about injuries or potential cases
For example, as a legal marketing agency, we try to avoid making statements such as, “Auto accidents are devastating and anyone involved in one needs to contact a lawyer.” Instead, we would recommend making a statement such as, “Auto accidents can be devasting. If you were injured in an accident and feel the need to talk to a lawyer contact (Your firm’s name) to set up a consultation.” This avoids subjective statements while maintaining a similar message.
4. Know your state’s rules on advertising disclaimers
Many states require their ads to be disclosed as an ad. Generally, the advertising platforms do this automatically, however, depending on your state, you may have to disclose additional information such as an address, a phone number, etc.
5. Lawyers should portray themselves in commercials, not actors
If video content is something you are interested in adding to your advertising toolbelt, be ready to step in front of the camera. Many states don’t allow actors to play the part of lawyers in advertisements, nor advertise your firm in a building that the law firm does not own. You can not use a staged office, partnering firms office, or a green screen to depict your office space. In doing so, you may be misleading the audience in thinking that is the building/setting that a consultation would take place in.
In conclusion, lawyer advertising rules vary by state and it is imperative that lawyers have a functional knowledge of the rules and regulations of the state they intend on advertising in. The rules above are legal advertising best practices, but they are by no means the only thing one should take into consideration when striving to stay compliant with your state’s rules of professional conduct.
1. Avoid claiming to be an expert
2. Avoid false/misleading statements
3. Avoid general blanket statements about personal injuries
4. Know if you need an advertising disclaimer
5. Don’t hire an actor to portray a lawyer in your commercial
If your firm is contemplating the idea of starting an advertising campaign, we encourage you to talk to us, legal marketing experts, and we will look into your state’s legal advertising rules and provide you with a report outlining the guidelines of your state.
We can include this information in your custom preliminary audit. Our preliminary audit analyzes your firm’s current marketing KPI’s (key performance indicators) and compares them to your competitors in the same advertising space.
Interested in Élan’s legal advertising capabilities? Click here to learn more about our approach to marketing and what you gain when your firm partners with Élan. If this is something you are interested in, please get in touch with our team by filling out our contact form.
Note: The information in this article applies only to U.S. practices. This post is provided for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal, business, or accounting advice.