When doing digital marketing and search engine optimization for lawyers, 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. The lawyer advertising rules in Florida are some of the most restrictive in the country. On May 1, 2013, The Florida Supreme Court issued new advertising rules eliminating the distinction between information on the interior pages of an attorney’s website and general advertisements.
Under the Florida Rule of Professional Conduct 4-7.13, attorneys are prohibited from making any claim about the attorney’s services that are not “objectively verifiable.” Some of the rules outlined in this section of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct include:
Does the advertisement fail to contain the name of at least one lawyer, the law firm or lawyer referral service responsible for the advertisement?
- Is the name illegible or not reasonably prominent? Rules 4-7.12(a)(1) and Rule 4-7.12(d)
- Does the advertisement fail to disclose the city, town or county of at least one bona fide office location of the advertising lawyer?
- Is the geographic disclosure illegible or not reasonably prominent? Rules 4-7.12(a)(2) and 4-7.12(d)
- Does the advertisement fail to disclose that the case or matter will be referred to another lawyer or law firm if that is the case? Rule 4-7.12(b)
- Is this disclosure illegible or not reasonably prominent? Rule 4-7.12(d) If the advertisement appears in a language other than English, does the disclosure fail to appear in that language? Rule 4-7.12(c)
- Does the advertisement contain any aspect that is misleading or deceptive? Rule 4-7.13(a)
- Does the advertisement contain any material statements that are factually or legally inaccurate? Rule 4-7.13(a)(1)
- Does the advertisement omit any information necessary to prevent it from misleading consumers? Rule 4-7.13(a)(2)
- Does the advertisement contain any information that can reasonably be interpreted as a prediction or guaranty of success or specific results? Rule 4-7.13(b)(1)
- Does the advertisement contain any references to past results that are not objectively verifiable, that omit material information or that are “literally accurate, but could reasonably mislead a prospective client regarding a material fact?” Rules 4-7.13(a)(2) and (b)(2) and Rules 4-7.14(a)(2)
Florida Rule of Professional Conduct 4-7.14 prohibits an attorney from identifying themselves in an advertisement as a “specialist” or “certified specialist.” Unless:
- the lawyer has been certified under the Florida Certification Plan as set forth in chapter 6, Rules Regulating the Florida Bar and the advertisement includes the area of certification and that The Florida Bar is the certifying organization;
- the lawyer has been certified by an organization whose specialty certification program has been accredited by the American Bar Association or The Florida Bar as provided elsewhere in these rules. A lawyer certified by a specialty certification program accredited by the American Bar Association but not The Florida Bar must include the statement “Not Certified as a Specialist by The Florida Bar” in reference to the specialization or certification. All such advertisements must include the area of certification and the name of the certifying organization
- the lawyer has been certified by another state bar if the state bar program grants certification on the basis of standards reasonably comparable to the standards of the Florida Certification Plan set forth in chapter 6 of these rules and the advertisement includes the area of certification and the name of the certifying organization.
If the lawyer does not have any of the above listed approved certifications they may communicate that they limit their practice to one area of the law, or:
- Information about the lawyer’s fee, including those that indicate no fee will be charged in the absence of a recovery, unless the advertisement discloses all fees and expenses for which the client might be liable and any other material information relating to the fee. A lawyer who advertises a specific fee or range of fees for a particular service must honor the advertised fee or range of fees for at least 90 days unless the advertisement specifies a shorter period; provided that, for advertisements in the yellow pages of telephone directories or other media not published more frequently than annually, the advertised fee or range of fees must be honored for no less than 1 year following publication.
The Florida Bar, which acts as an extension of the Florida Supreme court, approves all lawyer advertising, and prosecutes attorneys for alleged violations.