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 the South Dakota Rules for Professional Conduct defines a communication as “any message or offer made by or on behalf of a lawyer concerning the availability of the lawyer for professional employment which is directed to any former, present, or prospective client.” The rule states all communications should be “predominantly informational.” This means that the communication of “factual information rationally related to the need for and selection of a lawyer predominates and that the communication includes only a minimal amount of content designed to attract attention to and create interest in the communication.” Rule 7.1 also prohibits an attorney from making any false or misleading communications about themselves or their services.
Advertisements permitted under Rule 7.2 may contain information about fees for an initial consultation, or a written schedule of fees or an estimate of fees to be charged for specific legal services. Advertisements may also disclose that the charging of a fee is contingent on outcome or that the fee will be a percentage of the recovery.
An attorney may communicate the fact that they do or do not practice in particular fields of law; however, a lawyer shall not state or imply that the lawyer is a specialist except as follows:
- A lawyer admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office may use the designation “patent attorney” or a substantially similar designation.
- A lawyer engaged in admiralty practice may use the designation “admiralty”, “proctor in admiralty” or a substantially similar designation.
- If a lawyer or firm practices in only certain fields and desires to advertise such limitations in the yellow pages of the telephone directory any such advertising must be accompanied by a disclaimer appearing in a prominent and conspicuous manner in such advertising or on the same page as the advertising.