LEGAL ADVERTISING: Lawyer Advertising Rules

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Legal advertising is any form of advertising done by lawyers (attorneys), solicitors, and law firms. Legal advertising is any kind of advertisement that an attorney buys or puts in a magazine, billboard, billboard, radio, TV, or any other written or recorded medium. All forms of Legal advertising can be classified under a general umbrella as Legal marketing. Legal marketing is a broader term that refers to advertising and other practices, including client relations, social media, and public relations e.t.c. It helps to increase the brand awareness of law firms. Discover the crucial legal advertising and lawyer advertising rules you must know.


The American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which are not mandatory for attorneys but are very compelling to state bar associations, serve as the model for the majority of state bar associations’ rules on legal advertising. In the U.S., from the early years of the 20th Century to somewhat around the 1970s (precisely 1977) Legal advertising was deemed illegal and professionally unethical, and as such, was severely curtailed and where it was allowed, it was highly regulated.

In 1977, the Supreme Court held in John R. Bates and Van O’Steen v. State Bar of Arizona declared that legal advertising is commercial speech and thus is accorded the First Amendment protection thereby restricting blanket suppression on legal advertising by State bar associations though urging them to carry on restrictions of misleading or false advertisement.

Subsequently, The Supreme Court concluded in 1988 in Shapero v. Kentucky Bar Association that a state may not restrict genuine direct mail solicitation. In countries such as England, Italy, Israel, Australia and even in the European Union, advertising by attorneys has been legalized and properly regulated, though in countries like India, Lawyers, attorneys solicitors are not permitted to advertise independently either directly or indirectly, except through a medium maintained by the Bar Council of India.

A little bit of knowledge can accomplish two things when it comes to Legal advertising ethics/regulations. For instance, being aware of the ethical guidelines for lawyer advertising will help you stay out of problems. Second, if you are aware of these rules, you may be able to improve your marketing messages.

Regarding digital forms of Legal advertising, legal services must adhere to state bar regulations. The attorney advertising his/her Legal services are required to make sure their website remains compliant with the state’s bar rules of ethics and professional conduct governing website advertising and marketing for lawyers and Legal services. When advertising professionally, attorneys should follow some guidelines. These rules are necessary even when state laws differ.

#1. Not Every Marketing Message Must Follow the Rules

For instance, an attorney joins a community organization or nonprofit board, interacts with, and develops relationships. Ideally, he/she could make a donation to the public radio, or a charitable initiative that acknowledges that contribution. Attorneys can create CLE programs, submit bar journal articles, or upload Instagram videos with advice for aspiring lawyers.

These may or may not be a deliberate marketing tactic; the attorney may just assume they will lead to business. In instances such as or similar to this, the ad rules are not applicable as long as the attorney stays outside of communications that qualify as “commercial speech.”

The rules governing ethical lawyer advertising frequently employ legalese. Fortunately, there are tools available to assist in explaining how they apply to specific advertising situations. The American Bar Association, various states, and some metropolitan bar associations all publish ethical opinions. Lawyers sometimes ask for these opinions, which explain how the law applies to unique cases.

For instance, Virginia Legal Ethics Opinion 1885 discusses the moral implications of using an online dating site. The California Formal Opinion 2016 196 talks about when blogging constitutes an advertisement. A legal advisor studying ethical concerns should make sure their conclusions reflect current laws and don’t discuss laws that have been amended or repealed.

The majority of states’ regulatory or disciplinary offices will have an ethics hotline staffed by attorneys knowledgeable in the regulations. These hotlines are useful for questions that can be answered quickly and simply without doing an extensive investigation.

#3. The Laws Are the Laws

The New York State Bar Association’s Social Media Ethics Guidelines advise lawyers to avoid platforms that don’t allow state law compliance. Numerous marketing strategies could be viewed as unethical from a legal standpoint, and some are even thought to be illegal. Direct client solicitation (a concept also known as barratry, or “ambulance chasing”) is prohibited; shock advertising, for instance, would be regarded as unethical

In 2006 and 2007, the Florida and New York court systems recommended a number of advertising prohibitions. These rules said that advertising shouldn’t use certain ways to get people’s attention, such as:

  • Specific recommendations or testimonies from prior clients.
  • Depiction of judges.
  • Payment received in secret for testimonials.
  • Depiction of a judge, fictional attorney, or law firm.
  • Using actors or imaginary characters.
  • Irrelevant traits of the attorneys.
  • Ads that look like court filings.
  • 30 days following a tort, there are some restrictions on cold-calling for new clients as well as restrictions on communications with non-clients.
  • Use of a pseudonym or nickname.

Prohibitions on False or Misleading Information

Any information that is false, deceptive, or likely to be interpreted by the public as confusing, inaccurate, or misleading may not be included in a communication or solicitation posted on an attorney’s website.

False, misleading, or deceptive information typically includes claims regarding costs, benefits, outcomes, or self-praise. The words “best,” most,” lowest,” will,” and “better” are examples of words that may suggest a phrase is deceitful or misleading.

The obligation of the attorney to provide fair and honest representations is emphasized in both the previous Rule 1-400 of The State Bar of California for Advertising and Solicitation and the new Rule 7. Because of this, any advertisements or solicitations made by attorneys must be truthful and accurate.

According to the previous Rule 1-400(D)(2-3), an attorney website cannot omit any facts or information that are necessary to prevent public misinterpretation of the information. New Rule 7 makes it illegal for attorneys to make any false or misleading representations in any form of communication. Even true statements have the potential to be deceptive, as stated in Rule 7.1, and as a result, they may go against the lawyer’s ethical requirements.

Advertising agencies are full-service businesses able to manage every aspect of an advertising campaign. Thus, legal advertising companies are those agencies that do legal advertising. It can be challenging to understand the American Bar Associations’ advertising regulations and mistakes and missteps could result in punishment. Therefore, it is very important to engage the service of Legal advertising agencies, that properly understand the bar rules, preferably for the state in which the Legal firm or service is being advertised.

A thorough legal marketing strategy is now more important than ever as more law firms use new advertising tactics and face growing competition to draw in new clients.

This entails offline and online marketing initiatives that modify the marketing strategy according to the target audience.

Targeting various buyer personas is necessary for many law firms with a variety of practice areas. Instead of promoting to a larger audience, contemporary digital marketing techniques are able to tailor marketing efforts to these various personas. This is a major factor in the rise of digital marketing for law firms over conventional marketing strategies.

The most commonly utilized methods of legal marketing include:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO): SEO strategies are used to increase a website’s exposure on Google’s search results pages, create brand recognition, boost website traffic, and draw in potential customers.
  • Social media marketing: Although there are limitations on the use of social media by lawyers, many businesses can profit from advertising on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Social media platforms also aid in the development of brand awareness.
  • Email marketing: Law firms can communicate with leads and current clients through automated email campaigns. By sending legal news, advice, and tips to prospective clients, law firms demonstrate their competence and stay top-of-mind.
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing: In comparison with SEO, paid search marketing can produce leads with greater speed. The search engine results pages of Google Ads feature adverts at the top.
  • Content marketing: With the use of content marketing, law firms may improve their visibility in Google searches, establish their authority, increase traffic, and generate more sales leads by producing original content such as eBooks, blog posts, articles, and whitepapers that are valuable to their target audience.

Attorney Advertising Rules California

Advertising legal services must adhere to state bar regulations. The lawyer should make sure their website remains compliant even though many website design and marketing firms are unaware of the bar guidelines. Thus, the lawyer should carefully study their internet marketing providers and read every word on the firm’s website. Employing a company that is mindful of the bar regulations in that state, will help prevent a lot of issues.

There are a few common rules that every attorney should take into consideration, despite the fact that state laws differ slightly from one another. The first step is to read all of the bar guidelines that might be relevant when planning on building a new website or beginning a new internet marketing plan.

The ABA Model Rules 7.1 and 7.2 are the basis for the advertising laws in the majority of the states. These regulations forbid attorneys from paying for referrals and running deceptive or false advertisements.

Previously, California Rules of Professional Conduct 1-400 applied to attorney advertising in the state. As of November 1, 2018, the California Rules of Professional Conduct changed how websites and ads for lawyers should work.

On May 10, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued Supreme Court Administrative Order 2018-05-09, which approved the modifications. Rules 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, and 7.5 are the new rules.

Bar Rules Applying to Websites in California

The California Rules of Professional Conduct govern what lawyers and law firms can say and do on their marketing websites. These standards outline general guidelines that all attorneys and law firms must follow while promoting and soliciting clients.

The specific Bar Formal Ethics Opinion 2001-155 addressed internet advertising, despite the fact that California’s Rules of Professional Conduct do not expressly specify that website marketing, is covered by the advertising and solicitation regulations.

According to Formal Ethics Opinion 2001-155, the California Rules of Professional Conduct’s print advertising rules apply to an attorney’s website. A lawyer’s website is described as a communication rather than a solicitation in the Formal Opinion. Under the California Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer or legal firm can communicate with potential, prior, or present clients about professional employment. This includes any advertisement, regardless of the medium, addressed to the general public.

Prohibitions against False, Deceptive, or Misleading Information

Whatever form of communication or information on an attorney’s website, must be free of false deceptive confusing, or misleading elements. The old Rule 1-400 and the new Rule 7 ban attorneys from making false or misleading communications in any form.

According to Rule 7.1, a true statement may be deceptive if it “omits a fact necessary to make the attorney’s communication considered as a whole not materially misleading” or if it increases the “substantial likelihood 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.

Even when a firm is mentioned, most California attorney advertisements must list at least one attorney who wrote the advertisement. Please refer to 1400, standard 12, and 7.2(c). Rule 7.2(c) requires that at least one responsible attorney’s name and address be mentioned.

The attorney should use words like “advertisement” or “solicitation” or synonyms that are clearly recognizable when they are used in certain written advertising. See 7.3(c) and 1-400(D)(4).

Case Results, Testimonials, or Endorsements: Special Considerations

The most persuasive material, as every marketing firm is aware, often incorporates case studies, endorsements, or other third-party evidence. This information can be independently evaluated if done properly.

Special regulations pertaining to endorsements, case outcomes, or accomplishments are included in the California bar rules governing attorney advertising.

According to Comment [4] to the new Rule 7.1, it is illegal to present information “so as to cause a reasonable person to form an illogical expectation” that they could achieve similar outcomes, even if it is true about the lawyer’s successes on behalf of clients or former clients, or if it is presented in the form of a testimonial or endorsement. Guarantees or warranties in advertising or solicitation are considered “false or misleading communication” and are therefore likely to be unlawful. See comment 2 in Rule 7.1.

To avoid misleading the viewer’s expectations, it is generally a good idea for every attorney or legal company to post a disclaimer or disclosure on their website.

Furthermore, in order to prevent the viewer from interpreting the communication or solicitation as a legal relationship or legal advice, an attorney’s communication or solicitation must clearly, expressly, or by context indicate that it is only a communication or solicitation and nothing more.

A clear disclaimer stating that the communication does not represent a guarantee or a prediction of outcomes was required under Standard (2) of the former Rule 1-400 for any communication that included a testimonial or endorsement of the lawyer. The violation of this rule was assumed in the absence of this disclaimer. However, Rule 7.2 states that a disclaimer may be necessary to avoid “creating unwarranted preconceptions.”

Statements About Specializations That Are Unethical

A “certified specialist” is a California attorney who holds a current certificate of specialization issued by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization or any other organization authorized by the State Bar to designate specialists, according to Rule 9.35 of the 2019 California Rules of Court.

Unless an attorney held a current certificate issued by the California Board of Legal Specialization or any other organization that has been accredited by the State Bar and designates specialists in accordance with the Board of Governors’ standards, Rule 1-400(D)(6) prohibits any attorney or law firm in California from claiming to be a “certified specialist”. Rule 1-400(D)(6) was changed to Rule 7.4 on Communication of Fields of Practice and Specialization as of November 1st, 2018.

In accordance with these rules, attorneys and law firms, are very careful when using specific terms such as;  “expert,””specialist,” or “specialized,”. These terms are reserved for board-certified specialists as defined by Rule 9.35.

The California Board of Legal Expertise or another recognized authority may certify a California attorney as a specialist. Also, non-specialist attorneys can declare that they are available to practice in specific areas of law, but they cannot claim specialized competence or experience in those areas. It is also permissible to state that the lawyer is “focused” on a specific field of law. However, websites cannot make generic claims about a legal firm’s board certification.

Legal advertising informs the public about current legal issues and informs the public that there are attorneys available to help.

The types of Legal advertising include but are not limited to; social media marketing, email marketing, billboards, TV and radio ads, and newspaper ads.

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When it comes to legal advertising ethics and standards, even a little knowledge can go a long way. If you’re a lawyer, for example, knowing the requirements for ethically promoting your services can keep you out of trouble. Above all, recognizing these rules may assist you in developing more successful marketing messages.

This article has provided valuable insights into the kinds of advertising methods most lawyers commonly use and has outlined the guidelines for effective legal advertising strategies.

Legal advertising is any form of advertising done by lawyers (attorneys), solicitors, and law firms.

What kinds of Advertising do Lawyers most commonly use?

What kinds of Advertising do Lawyers most commonly use?
The most common kinds of advertising used by lawyers are billboards and tv commercials.

Are Lawyers allowed to advertise?

Yes, Lawyers are allowed to advertise.

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