Advertising Bar Regulations For Wisconsin

When performing attorney internet marketing 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 Wisconsin Rules for Professional Conduct for Attorneys contains all applicable rules for advertising in the state of Wisconsin.

Section SCR 20: 7.1. covers all communications concerning a lawyer’s services. The rule states that: A lawyer is prohibited from making false or misleading communications about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication can be considered false or misleading if:

  • contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole 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
  • compares the lawyer’s services with other lawyers’ services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated
  • contains any paid testimonial about, or paid endorsement of, the lawyer without identifying the fact that payment has been made or, if the testimonial or endorsement is not made by an actual client, without identifying that fact.

Section SCR 20:7.2 Directly governs general advertising. The rule states that “a lawyer may advertise services through written, recorded or electronic communication, including public media.” However, attorneys are not permitted to give anything of value to a person for recommending their services. They are permitted to pay the reasonable cost of advertisements or communications, pay the usual charges of a legal service plan or a not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service.

Section SCR 20:7.3 Regulates all direct contact with prospective clients. Lawyers are prohibited from real-time electronic contact in order to solicit professional employment from a prospective client when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. Lawyers also may not solicit anyone who has made it known they do not desire to be solicited, or use coercion to solicit clients.

Section SCR 20: 7.4 governs the communication of fields of practice for attorneys in Wisconsin. The rule permits a lawyer to specify whether they do or do not concentrate in certain specific areas of the law; however, it prohibits an attorney stating or implying that they are “certified” or a “specialist” in any area of the law, unless:

  • the lawyer has been certified as a specialist by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate state authority or that has been accredited by the American Bar Association; and the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication.
  • The 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.
  • The lawyer engaged in admiralty practice may use the designation “admiralty,” “proctor in admiralty” or a substantially similar designation.
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