When performing digital marketing and SEO for law firm websites, it’s important to be mindful of your state’s bar regulations for advertising. In this article we’ll go over some of the high level points to look out for. Connecticut has mandatory filing rules that govern attorney advertising outlined in Sections 2-28A and Rule 14 of the Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee Rules of Procedure. However, the attorney does not need to obtain approval in advance of the advertising. The attorney must file a copy of the legal advertisement electronically through Connecticut Judicial Branch E-Services.
There are exemptions to the mandatory filing rule. For example, websites or social media profiles that are used by the attorney primarily for personal purposes do not need to be provided because attorneys are only required to file the domain names of websites used by attorneys offering legal services.
Other exemptions from the mandatory filing rule are found in Section 2-28A(b) of the Connecticut Practice Book. Those exemptions include:
- Communication that is requested by a prospective client (often called “information upon request”);
- Any communication sent only to:
- Existing or former clients;
- Other attorneys or professionals; business organizations including trade groups; not-for-profit organizations; governmental bodies and/or
- Members of a not-for-profit organization that meets the following conditions: the primary purposes of the organization do not include the rendition of legal services; the recommending, furnishing, paying for or educating persons regarding legal services is incidental and reasonably related to the primary purposes of the organization; the organization does not derive a financial benefit from the rendition of legal services by an attorney; and the person for whom the legal services are rendered, and not the organization, is recognized as the client of the attorney who is recommended, furnished, or paid for by the organization.
- Advertisement in the public media that contains only the information, in whole or in part, contained in Rule 7.2 (i) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, provided the information is not false or misleading;
- Any listing or entry in a regularly published law list;
- Any advertisement in a telephone directory; or
- Any announcement card stating new or changed associations, new offices, or similar changes relating to an attorney or firm, or a tombstone professional card.
The law firm must select an attorney who will be listed as being responsible for the filed advertisement even if they have not themselves authored the advertisement. The advertisement may be randomly selected for review to ensure compliance with ethical standards after it is electronically filed.
The filed advertisement is subject to random review for three months after the filing. The Statewide Grievance Committee will provide written notice to the attorney if the filed advertisement is selected for review. If, during the review, the Statewide Grievance Committee will contact the attorney to negotiate a resolution to any violation if they find there to have been a violation of the ethical rules. The violation will not be considered to be a disciplinary finding if the attorney agrees to the resolution negotiated with the Statewide Grievance Committee; however, if they violation cannot be resolved then the issue will be handed over to the Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s office.