When considering a law firm digital marketing 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 lawyer rules for advertising can be found in the New Hampshire Rules of Professional Conduct, specifically in sections 7.1-7.3.
Rule 7.1. Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services
This rule essentially governs a lawyer’s truthfulness in their communication of services. It states “A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services.” A statement is considered misleading by the New Hampshire bar if it:
- “contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement, considered in light of all of the circumstances, not materially misleading;
- is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the rules of professional conduct or other law; or
- compares the lawyer’s services with other lawyers’ services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated.”
Rule 7.2 Advertising
Rule 7.2 defines advertising as an “active quest for clients.” The law permits lawyers make their services known, in order to assist the public in obtaining legal services. However, in order to avoid advertising from being misleading or overreaching, a lawyer must adhere to the following standards:
- A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services except that a lawyer may
- pay the reasonable costs of advertisements or communications permitted by this Rule;
- pay a fee charged by an organization that is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as exempt from taxation pursuant to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; and
- purchase a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.17.
- Any communication made pursuant to this rule shall include the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content.
Rule 7.3 Direct Contact with Potential Clients
The ABA comment to the model rules of 7.3 defines solicitation as “a targeted communication initiated by the lawyer that is directed to a specific person and that offers to provide, or can reasonably be understood as offering to provide, legal services.” Solicitation has a potential for abuse due to the highly overwhelming emotional state many people looking for an attorney find themselves in. To avoid this potential abuse Rule 7.3 puts in place standards for solicitation, such as:
- A lawyer shall not initiate, by in-person, live voice, recorded or other real-time means, contact with a prospective client for the purpose of obtaining professional employment, unless the person contacted:
- is a lawyer;
- has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer;
- is an employee, agent, or representative of a business, non-profit or governmental organization not known to be in need of legal services in a particular matter, and the lawyer seeks to provide services on behalf of the organization; or
- is an individual who regularly requires legal services in a commercial context and is not known to be in need of legal services in a particular matter.
- A lawyer shall not communicate or knowingly permit any communication to a prospective client for the purpose of obtaining professional employment if:
- the prospective client has made known to the lawyer a desire not to receive communications from the lawyer;
- the communication involves coercion, duress or harassment; or
- the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the physical, mental, or emotional state of the prospective client is such that there is a substantial potential that the person cannot exercise reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer.