If you are online marketing 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.
All advertising and communications, including digital advertisements, made by an attorney or law firm are governed by the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct.
Rule 7.1 This rule states that an attorney is prohibited from making or using a false, unverifiable or misleading communication about the attorney or their services. The bar rules state that even a truthful statement can be considered to be a false or misleading communication if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law or omits a fact that is necessary to make the statement not misleading when taken as a whole. Characterizations of rate such as “cheap” or “cut rate” can also be considered misleading.
To avoid misleading potential clients, adding appropriate disclaimers to a website may help the viewer avoid creating unjustified expectations. Disclaimers should be displayed with equal prominence to all other website content.
Disclaimers are particularly important when it comes to former client testimonials. The comments of Rule 7.1 specifically state that past case results, testimonials, or any other advertisement that reports on a lawyer’s achievements on behalf of another client may be misleading if presented in a way that would create an expectation that the same results would be obtained for another client in a similar situation. Providing a disclaimer that states there is no way to guarantee any results or ruling can help avoid misleading future clients.
Rule 7.5 of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct places restrictions on the name of the law firm on any communication, including websites and digital advertisements. An attorney who is a solo practitioner should not use the phrase “and Associates” because it may be considered misleading to the public if it creates the implication that the lawyer has an employment relationship with another attorney.