Posted by: johnocunningham | November 22, 2010

Professional Rules and On-line Marketing

Lawyers and legal marketers may be surprised to know that some state bars define and regulate “legal advertising” generally and lawyer advertising on the Internet in particular (see e.g., CT and NY).

Some also require filing of any on-line communications that could be construed as a “quest for clients” (such as CT) and some require filing of virtually any communication directed at clients (such as KY) while others have no filing requirements even though they have detailed regulations (such as FL).

Many states do not require any filings and have no special regulations aimed at on-line communications, but remind lawyers that professional responsibility rules require their communications to be honest, accurate, and not misleading or deceptively incomplete (such as MA).

In this regard, some state bar counsel or grievance committees have established specific rules or rulings that “representative matters” should be listed on a Website with a disclaimer to the effect that “facts determine outcomes and past success is no guarantee of future results.” (see e.g., CT).

I have read that a few states also discourage or prohibit the use of client testimonials, viewing them as too potentially misleading. 

Now, the American Bar Association is preparing to enter this emerging field of regulation, potentially adding more layers of complexity through the introduction of some kind of model rules. For more details, see Larry Bodine’s Law Marketing Portal (Larry has done a great job of tracking this issue) and the ABA Commission on Ethics announcement. 

Lawyer and legal marketers may want to stop or at least direct this train before it goes down the wrong track, hindering client communications and sharing of valuable marketing-related information. You can contact the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility, Commmission on Ethics in Chicago, 321 N. Clark Street, 15th floor, Chicago, Illinois 60654 to contribute input.


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