Florida Bar Rules for Web Sites: Quick Synopsis

Update:  The Florida Bar has released new advertising rules.  Please visit our blog posts on the subject here:

We recently attended the great LMASE seminar on the Florida Bar Rules. Here is a quick synopsis.

Overarching Guidelines: For all Forms of Advertising

  • Name of lawyer or law firm – Lawyer must advertise under their official bar name
  • All forms of law advertising must disclose the town or city of one or more bona fide office locations of the lawyer. It is considered to be misleading if law firm lists offices in cities where there is no bona fide firm offices in those cities.May only advertise that they are “available for consultation” in locations where they don’t have an office that they have furnished & have staff at.
  • With regard to misleading information:”  they basically cannot misrepresent facts or law, is in any way false/misleading/deceptive/omitting material information
    • Must not refer to past successes or results obtained
    • Promise results
    • Compares lawyers services with another lawyers services unless factually substantiated
    • May not contain statements describing or characterizing the quality of their services
      • May truthfully state ratings or awards if is legitimate, and uses the actual name of the award and the lawyer includes the name of the organization bestowing the award, and the year.
  • May contain visual or verbal descriptions depictions as long as they are not deceptive, misleading or likely to confuse viewer.
  • Lawyer advertisements may not include an area of practice in which the advertising lawyer or firm does not currently practice law.
  • Advertisements cannot include statements that claim or imply a lawyer is certified, board certified, specialist, or expert in an area unless the lawyer is Board Certified in that area.
  • Can’t state or imply that the Florida bar approves of them whatsoever.
  • Cannot use illustrations only if they could confuse, deceive or mislead the viewer.
  • Every advertisement which contains information about the lawyers fee must also disclose whether the client will be responsible for costs or other expenses in addition to the fee.
  • Lawyers may not advertise under firm names that are false, misleading or deceptive. Lawyer may not advertise under a trade name unless the same name appears on the letterhead, business cards, office sign, fee contracts and appears with the lawyers signature on pleadings and other legal documents.
  • Cannot use any celebrity in advertising whose voice or image is recognizable to the public.
  • Sounds – cannot use sounds that would confuse or be deceptive.Cannot use sirens or car crashing noises.

Specifics for Web:

  • Jurisdictions which attorneys are licensed – home page
  • Office locations – home page
  • Any past results, testimonials or quality of legal services, can only be supplied if requested – must have a disclaimer where the client must request to see these.Any testimonials/past results etc must be secured in a way that they are not searchable within the site without signing off on the disclaimer, and must not be able to be found on a Google or other external general search without signing a disclaimer.

Specifics for Print / Direct Mail:

  • Direct mail must have “Legal Advertisement” printed on the ” outside of the advertisement in red in the lower left hand corner.
  • Must contain statements as to how the attorney obtained the information about prospective clients legal matter, and a written statement detailing the lawyers of law firms background, experience.
  • Direct Mail – must always include as the first sentence “If you have already retained a lawyer for this matter please disregard this letter.
  • Any mailings must be sent by standard post mail & not be made to look like legal or court documents or anything else sneaky.
  • Cannot have anything on the outside of the envelope stating the nature of the clients legal problem.
  • No mailings can go to someone within a 30 day window of a personal injury, death or disaster.

 

Specifics for Email:

  • Unsolicited Direct Mail & Email –
  • Subject line of email must state “Legal Advertisement”.
  • Statement of attorney or firm qualifications is required.
  • Must contain statements as to how the attorney obtained the information about prospective clients legal matter.
  • And must comply with rules above about geographic disclosure, board certification, and such.
  • No mailings can go to someone within a 30 day window of a personal injury, death or disaster.

2 Responses to Florida Bar Rules for Web Sites: Quick Synopsis

  1. Jay
    8:44 pm on March 15th, 2010

    Excellent info! I have a couple of new attorney clients that this information will greatly benefit. A million thanks…

  2. Neil Ferree
    10:51 pm on March 25th, 2010

    I keep reading that Citations are the new Link for local search and that consistency matters quite a bit when populating a new citation. I'd like to see someone compile a List of the Top 10 IYP and the Top Data Directories where a new business listing should list take the time to detail their company profile and the pitfalls for not doing so.

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