When building digital marketing and SEO campaigns 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.
Rule 7.1 of South Carolina’s Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits the release of any advertisement that contains statements or claims that are false, deceptive or misleading. A misleading communication is any communication that 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. Communications that compare the attorney’s services to another attorney’s services are also prohibited unless these claims are factually substantiated. If the communication contains any testimonials or endorsements regarding the attorney’s services, the communication must:
- Identify the fact that it is a testimonial or endorsement
- Disclose whether or not the attorney paid for the testimonial or endorsement
- Disclose whether the testimonial or endorsement was made by an actual client
- Clearly state that any result the endorsed attorney may achieve on behalf of one client in one matter does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients.
Rule 7.2 permits an attorney advertise their services through public media, including internet and electronic media. An attorney is prohibited from giving anything of value to a person for recommending their services. They may, however, pay the reasonable costs of advertisements or communications, or pay the usual charges of a legal service plan or a not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service. The rule also states that 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 prohibits attorneys from soliciting professional employment from any prospective clients if a significant motive is their own pecuniary gain. Solicitation involving harassing conduct, coercion, duress, compulsion, intimidation or unwarranted promises of benefits is prohibited. Lawyers are not permitted to solicit any potential client through any means if the prospective client has made known they do not wish to be solicited by a lawyer. Additionally, The words “ADVERTISING MATERIAL,” printed prominently in capital letters, shall appear on the front of the outside envelope and on the front of each page of the material.
Rule 7.4 states that lawyers who are certified under Rule 408, SCACR, as a specialist in a specialty field designated by the Supreme Court Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization and approved by the Supreme Court, or a lawyer who has been issued a certificate of specialization by an independent certifying organization approved by the Supreme Court Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization pursuant to the Regulations for Legal Specialization in South Carolina, Part IV, Appendix D, § VI, SCACR, are entitled to claim they are certified or a specialist. They must clearly identify the name of their certifying organization. Lawyers who do not have such a certification may limit their practice to certain areas or claim to concentrate in certain areas, but must avoid verbiage that could mislead a potential client that they are certified in any area.