All forms of advertising are now covered by the updated rules, which previously addressed many online campaigns in separate guidelines.
This is a major step forward for The Florida Bar, which has been working on updating the advertising rules in conjunction with the Florida Supreme Court for many years. Florida still remains one of the most restrictive state bars in regard to regulation of attorney advertising.
Florida attorneys, as well as out-of-state attorneys who offer legal services in Florida, will want to become familiar newly published advertising guidelines. Here are highlights, as summarized by the Bar.
- The rules have been completely reorganized and renumbered, starting at Rule 4-7.11 and going through 4-7.23 – Rules 4-7.1 through 4-7.10 will be vacant
- All advertisements must be filed at least 20 days in advance of their planned use, unless they are exempt - Rule 4-7.19(a)
- All ad rules apply to websites and social networking and video sharing sites in addition to other media such as print, t.v. and radio - Rule 4-7.11(a) [Websites will remain exempt from the filing requirement – Rule 4-7.20(g)]
- Unduly manipulative techniques are prohibited, including appeals to emotions rather than rational evaluation of lawyer qualifications – Rule 4-7.15(a)
- Ads may not use authority figures, or actors portraying authority figures, to endorse, recommend, or act as a spokesperson for, the advertising lawyer – Rule 4-7.15(b)
- Lawyers may not offer economic incentives to view an ad or hire a lawyer, except for a discounted fee – Rule 4-7.15(d)
- Nonlawyers may not pay for a lawyer’s ads – Rule 4-7.17(c)
- Every page or panel of a direct mail advertisement and its envelope must include a prominent “Advertisement” in ink that contrasts with both the background and other text – Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(B)
- Direct email advertisements must begin the subject line with the word “Advertisement” – Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(B)
- Direct email ads, in addition to other direct mail ads, must include a statement of qualifications and experience – Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(C)
- Lawyer referral service ads must contain an affirmative statement that lawyers pay the service to get referrals – Rule 4-7.22(a)(11)
- New rule 4-7.23 defines and imposes requirements for lawyers participating in lawyer directories
- Ads may contain:
- objectively verifiable past results – Rule 4-7.13(b)(2)
- objectively verifiable characterizations of skill, experience, reputation or record – Rule 4-7.13(b)(3)
- testimonials, subject to specific restrictions and disclaimers – Rule 4-7.13(b)(8)
- The geographic disclosure of a bona fide office may be by county instead of or in addition to city or town – Rule 4-7.12(a)(2)
- The name of the law firm can be used in the advertisement in addition to or instead of the name of the lawyer responsible for the content – Rule 4-7.12(a)(1)
About the Author: Legal marketing consultant Margaret Grisdela is available to discuss business development goals for small to mid-sized law firms. Contact her www.legalexpertconnections.com or 1-866-417-7025.