Lawyer advertising is what lawyers do to attract more clients. Unlike other enterprises, advertising oneself as a lawyer has certain rules. There are ethical issues that must be taken into consideration. The regulation might be different for each state, although generally, it should be under attorney ethics rules and not the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).
The need for rules in lawyer advertising
The primary reason why there is regulation in lawyer advertising is ethics. The image of lawyers and the law profession must always be protected. Ethics rules used to be more restricted. As time progressed and as a result of opposing decisions by both the State and the US Supreme Court, complacency became the norm. More and more lawyers are advertising without thinking about its repercussions.
At this point, sanction only goes to lawyers who have crossed the line. If the offence is not so grave, it is unlikely for authorities to take action. There should be clear rules about lawyer advertising so that minor offences are clearly differentiated from major ones.
With this advertising, the prospective client is given the chance to get the lawyer’s contact details. Ads must include the local office address. This particular guideline is outdated. This was created under the assumption that clients will have the means to find lawyers when their numbers change or if their office is in close proximity. But this no longer makes sense.
If you’re a practicing lawyer, you can now use a toll-free telephone so that even if you change offices, the number still remains the same. Also, you can use the Internet. Make a website so that clients will know when and where to reach you. In 2004, more than 74% of Americans have reported that they have Internet connection at home. Lawyer advertising online is not prohibited so feel free to use this venue.
Another reason why this is contestable is that not all lawyers can afford expensive ads. The local office address is an added cost because it occupies space in the TV commercial. This rule does not level the playing field.
Crossing distances as a result of lawyer advertising
Lawyer advertising influences many clients to drive to far places just because they have seen a certain lawyer’s TV commercial. If your office is in the city, they might think that you’re more credible because you’re based in a progressive part of the country.
Simple rules in lawyer advertising
- Don’t practice illegal referral
Lawyer advertising is not only limited to TV and print but also referrals. This works by paying someone to so that he or she can refer you to other people. Secondly, if you agree to sign up to x number of cases just to cover the cost of expensive advertisement, you’re already committing an illegal act. Needless to say, this is so unbecoming of a lawyer.
- Don’t speak ill of other lawyers
Trash talking other lawyers behind their backs is not an acceptable behavior. The purpose of lawyer advertising is not to put other lawyers down. Competition is tough but play fair.
- Don’t claim to be an expert
Don’t do this unless you’re board certified. Most states prohibit lawyers from stating that they are experts in this or that field just to entice clients.
- Be careful with the words that you use
In lawyer advertising, there will be times when you need to give out your contact details. Be careful with words such as “If you want the best lawyer in town, call numbers 1-800-WIN-0000.” This is misleading.
- Don’t employ famous people for commercials in lawyer advertising
Using testimonials by famous people is vehemently discouraged. This is prohibited in most, if not all states. It does not follow advertisement methods used by commercial businesses.
- Don’t portray any dramatic accident in a commercial
You might want to get creative with lawyer advertising but keep in mind that reenactments of dramatic accidents are not permissible in some states.
- Don’t use jingles
Aside from being corny, this is prohibited in some states.
- Do practice caution on advertising verdict results
Should you want to advertise verdict results, you need to include the statement that past verdicts does not, in any way, predict future ones. Also, lawyer advertising is not a venue for you to brag about your success in past cases.
- Do keep a copy of your ad
Some states require lawyers to have copies for prior approval. You should also have a copy for personal record. This is a standard procedure that you should follow in lawyer advertising.