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Understanding Legal Advertising and the Rules and Regulations to Keep in Mind

The legal landscape has become fiercely competitive. Many law firms are now embracing the power of marketing and advertising when it comes to attracting clients. It wasn’t the case a few decades ago. Back then, law firms are forbidden from advertising their services. That changed because a Supreme Court case in 1977 removed most restrictions on lawyer advertising.  

However, legal advertising has its ups and downs. Since legal marketing is not always taught in law school, not all lawyers know how to effectively market their services and grow their practice. Also, there are advertising rules of professional conduct that you need to follow. In this article, we’ll help you in deciphering the rules of attorney advertising to keep your practice legal and compliant. 

What Is Attorney Advertising?

Attorney advertising is advertising done by lawyers and law firms. In most cases, advertising is part of a marketing strategy that includes client relations, public relations, and social media promotions. The main goal of advertising is to promote the services of a lawyer or law firm and increase brand awareness. 

Advertising can be both traditional and digital. Traditional methods include advertising on billboards, newspapers, TV and radio, and other print media like posters and flyers. Meanwhile, digital marketing includes social media, email marketing, paid ads, and search engine optimization. 

Who Regulates Attorney Advertising?

Though advertising is now allowed in the legal field, every lawyer and law firm must follow certain rules. These rules are set by a few major organizations, including the American Bar Association. They set the national guidelines on what lawyers can and cannot do when it comes to advertising. Further limitations are also imposed depending on where you practice. 

Advertising Rules and Regulations You Need to Follow

With law firm advertising, you can reach new people and grow your practice. Ads, when done correctly, will provide potential clients with information about the services offered, helping promote the brand. Studies show that around 40% of people search online and may potentially see a lawyer’s advertisement.

However, you must adhere to the rules if you don’t want to be suspended from your practice or, worse, get disbarred. Here are some tips:

Refrain from Using “Expert” in Your Ads

Among the basic lawyer advertising rules, the first that you should know is that you can’t use the term “expert” in your advertising.

Rule 7.2 in the ABA’s rule book states that lawyers should not imply that they have specialization in a certain practice unless they have certification from an ABA-accredited organization. 

Avoid Misleading Statements

Rule 7.1 of the American Bar Association regarding advertising notes states that lawyer advertising must not make misleading or deceptive statements. Using untrue statements in your ads may result in a violation. 

Here are some examples:

  • You are not allowed to advertise your practice in areas that you don’t handle.

  • You cannot advertise that your practice guarantees success for every client you take on. 

  • You are prohibited from implying that you have any special connection that can help with the case – whether it’s to a judge or other lawyers.

  • You are not allowed to publish non-verifiable statements and make unverified comparisons against competitors.

There Are Restrictions on Testimonials and Endorsements

One of the best ways to advertise to your potential clients is through testimonials and endorsements from previous clients. However, these can sometimes cause confusion and be used to make false claims. The rule is that you cannot force or pay anyone to leave a review. 

The review should also comment on the services rendered and their overall client experience. 

If the one leaving the testimonial is not a lawyer, they cannot comment about legal skills. 

As a lawyer or law firm, you are required to include a disclaimer that past results mentioned in the positive reviews do not guarantee future success. 

Avoid Direct Solicitation of Legal Services

The ABA Rule 7.3 is focused on attorney solicitation of clients. Thus, you cannot seek professional employment if the law firm has a major financial interest. 

However, if the contact has a personal or previous professional relationship with the lawyer, then soliciting is possible unless the contact expressed unwillingness to be solicited. 

You Must Keed Ad Copies

For every advertising campaign, make sure to keep physical and digital copies of your advertisements. Some jurisdictions require you to submit these copies. You are also required to keep a log of your website, including content changes and major redesigns.  

You Are Required to Include Your Address

Depending on the state where you practice, your advertisements may be required to include your office address.

It is necessary for the sake of transparency and compliance with local legal standards. You can also include a map of your location to make it easier for potential clients to visit you. 

Know if You Can Use Your Trade Name

Using your trade name in your attorney advertising may or may not be allowed, depending on what state you practice. 

While some jurisdictions allow the use of trade names and brand identity, other jurisdictions may not be very welcoming of the idea. So, before creating your ads, make sure to check the local regulations. 

You Are Not Allowed to Talk About Competitors

Maligning your competition is not allowed in legal advertising. Anyway, your goal is to grow your practice and get more clients, not prove that your competition is beneath you. 

But you can subtly explain why you are different from the competition and why potential clients should choose you. 

Is Attorney Advertising Worth It?

With so many rules and regulations, you might be wondering if it’s still worth it to try advertising. The simple answer is, yes. 

These rules are easy to learn, and you can create your checklist of dos and don’ts, so you don’t forget any of them. 

Besides, there are many benefits to advertising your law firm, such as reaching a wider audience and ensuring that your prospective clients know where and how to find you. 

Advertising your firm or practice, when done correctly, is a great way to introduce your firm to future clients who have never heard of you before. 

It is also a great way to ensure that people know what kind of services you offer and turn your current clients into repeat customers. 

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