If your firm is considering a law firm SEO agency, 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 Michigan Rules for Professional Conduct govern lawyer advertising rules in the state of Michigan. An attorney’s or law firm’s website in Michigan typically requires at least one attorney’s name to be published on the website that is responsible for the content on the website, whether or not the attorney listed has authored any content on the website. The attorney or law firm should address where they primarily practice.
According to Rule 7.2, a copy of attorney advertisements in Michigan must be kept for two years after the advertisement was last used, in addition to a record of where and when it was last used. Also, “a lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services.” An exception to this rule is that a lawyer may pay the reasonable cost of advertising or communication permitted by this rule, or participate in, and pay the usual charges of, a not-for-profit lawyer referral service or other legal service organization that satisfies the requirements of Rule 6.3(b).
According to Rule 7.1 of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney must not make any communications that are not false, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive. The rule further states an attorney must not make any type of communication that:
- Contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law;
- Omits a fact necessary to make the statement not misleading when taken as a whole;
- Creates an unjustified expectation about the results the attorney is able to achieve; or
- Compares the attorney’s services to that of another, unless the comparison can be verified through facts.
According to the comments of Rule 7.1, statements that may create an unjustified expectation as to the attorney’s services can include:
- Results previously obtained on a client’s behalf,
- The lawyer’s record in obtaining favorable verdicts,
- The amount of the damage award in any given case, and
- Any other advertisement containing a client endorsement.
The comments to Rule 7.2 prohibit an attorney or law firm from paying another person or party to recommend their services, except in the case of another organization who recommends the attorney’s services, such as a legal aid agency or a prepaid legal services plan.
Rule 7.4 of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct, permit an attorney to communicate on their website that they do or do not practice in a particular area of law. However, a lawyer should not state they are “specialized” or a “specialist” in certain areas of the law, unless they are certified by the proper authority in the particular area of law they are claiming to be specialized or a specialist in.
Rule 7.1 prohibits an attorney from advertising in any way that may be considered false or misleading. If an attorney includes information on their website that has the potential to be false or misleading, it is generally wise to include a disclaimer on the website, presented with equal legibility, prominence and in the same manner as the rest of the website’s content. This type of disclaimer keep potential or possible clients from being mislead about results the attorney is able to attain.