Florida Law Firm Websites: Make a difference between Bona Fide Offices vs. Satellite Offices

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It’s super easy and cost effective to setup a virtual office today for your law firm.  You can potentially have an office in every city in Florida.  However, the Florida Bar makes a clear distinction between bona fide offices and satellite offices.  Make sure you disclose which offices are satellite offices on your website.

The Rule
The SCA has found that an advertisement is misleading if it lists law firm offices in several cities when, in fact, there are no bona fide firm offices in those cities. Rule 4-7.2(a)(2) defines “bona fide office” as “a physical location maintained by the law firm or lawyer where the firm or lawyer furnishes or reasonably expects to furnish legal services in a substantial way on a regular and continuing basis.” The SCA has developed the following criteria for determining whether an advertised location is a bona fide office:

The Test
1. Does the office have the firm’s name on an outside office sign or on the building’s directory?
2. Is the advertised location staffed by law firm employees who answer phone calls at that location from prospective clients?
3. Is the advertised location staffed by receptionists, secretaries, clerks, or paralegals employed by the firm on a full-time basis?
4. Other than client interviews and conferences, do firm attorneys furnish legal services from the advertised location?
5. Is the advertised location staffed by at least one firm lawyer on a regular and continuing basis?

Even though an attorney may not advertise an office location that is not a bona fide office, the attorney may nevertheless advertise that he or she is “available for consultation” at a specified location or may identify other locations as “limited service” or “satellite” offices. Make sure you disclose which offices are satellite offices on your website.

If you want to see more rules, visit the Florida Bar website here. There are rules on websites, social networking, videos and traditional ads.

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