When undertaking lawyer online 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. Most of the lawyer advertising rules in Missouri can be found at Rule 4-7.1 through Rule 4-7.5 in the section for Information About Legal Services of the > Advertising Rules for Missouri Attorneys.
The Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct typically govern all attorney advertisements and communications, which includes website or other online content.
Rule 4-7.2 states that a lawyer or law firm is not permitted to advertise the existence of any other office besides the principal office on their website, unless any of the following apply:
- The other office is staffed by an attorney at least three days per week, or
- The advertisement states the days and times when a lawyer will be present in the office or that meetings at the office are by appointment only.
Rule 4-7.2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct also requires a specified disclaimer must be included on every legal advertisement, including attorney or law firm websites, except if the communicated information is limited to:
- The law firm’s name and the lawyers in the firm;
- The fields of law the lawyer or law firm practices in;
- Any federal or state bar admissions and the dates of admission; and
- Contact information, including the address, e-mail address, phone number and office hours.
Any other advertisement must include the following disclaimer:
- “The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.”
Under Rule 4-7.1 of the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct, attorneys are prohibited from making false or misleading information about the attorney or the services they provide.
The Rules states that a communication made by the attorney may be false if it contains a material misrepresentation of law or fact.
According to the Rule, a communication be misleading if any of the following apply:
- omits a fact as a result of which the statement considered as a whole is materially misleading;
- is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve;
- proclaims results obtained on behalf of clients, such as the amount of a damage award or the lawyer’s record in obtaining favorable verdicts or settlements, without stating that past results afford no guarantee of future results and that every case is different and must be judged on its own merits;
- states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law;
- compares the quality of a lawyer’s or a law firm’s services with other lawyers’ services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated;
- advertises for a specific type of case concerning which the lawyer has neither experience nor competence;
- indicates an area of practice in which the lawyer routinely refers matters to other lawyers, without conspicuous identification of such fact;
- contains any paid testimonial about or endorsement of the lawyer, without conspicuous identification of the fact that payment has been made for the testimonial or endorsement;
- contains any simulated portrayal of a lawyer, client, victim, scene, or event without conspicuous identification of the fact that it is a simulation;
- provides an office address for an office staffed only part-time or by appointment only, without conspicuous identification of such fact; or
- states that legal services are available on a contingent or no-recovery-no-fee basis without stating conspicuously that the client may be responsible for costs or expenses, if that is the case.
Pricing factors may be implemented in an advertisement; however, using verbiage like “discounted,” “cut rate,” “cheapest” or anything of that nature may be considered misleading.
Rule 4-7.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, permits an attorney to disclose whether they do or do not practice in particular fields of law. However, an attorney may not state or imply they are a specialist in a particular legal field without a disclaimer that neither the Supreme Court of Missouri nor The Missouri Bar reviews or approves certifying organizations or specialist designations. An attorney may the designation, “Admiralty,” “Proctor in Admiralty” or something substantially similar if they are engaged in admiralty practice; or “Patent Attorney” or something substantially similar if they are admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.