Depending on the state in which you practice, your law firm’s website may be considered to be an advertisement. As such, it is subject to regulation by your state’s bar association. Typically, there are specific rules of professional conduct and ethics that govern your law firm as well as your advertising and marketing methods. Since an increasing number of law firms use the Internet to advertise their practice, it has become increasingly important to comply with local bar rules, despite the fact that many website marketing and design companies fail to adhere to these regulations. In fact, attorneys can break the bar rules without ever being aware of the violation because they were not the ones who created the website. While the rules vary in each state, there are several general guidelines that you should follow no matter the state in which you practice:
Avoid Prohibited Language
Make sure that you avoid terms like “specialized,” “specialist,” or “expert.” Most state bar associations prohibit websites and other advertisements from using misleading or false information or making material assumptions. If you are certified, you may say so, but avoid making general statements by saying that the firm itself is board-certified. Also, you can say that you are available to practice in a certain legal area, but you typically cannot claim that you have special experience in that particular area.
Don’t Use False or Misleading Statements
Similarly, avoid using misleading or false statements about your services by staying away from the words “cheapest,” “better,” or “best.” Statements comparing your law firm to another are not allowed unless you can prove the claim with verifiable data. Most commonly, attorneys make these statements pertaining to their skills, abilities, fees, and past recoveries made for their clients.
Name an Attorney on Every Page
In general, your website must contain the name of at least one attorney who is responsible for the content of your site. Numerous states require that you clearly display the name of the law firm or lawyer somewhere on your website while others might require that name to be on your website’s homepage. To play it safe and avoid a violation, consider putting your name on each page.
Always Use Disclaimers
Many jurisdictions require that law firms’ websites and blogs clearly state that the content on site is not legal advice. While you might not be required to have this disclaimer on every page, doing so is ideal to protect yourself and your law firm from any questions about the purpose of the content. Depending on your state, you may also be prohibited from making statements that could give potential clients an unjustified expectation about the compensation or results that the firm can achieve.
State Your Location on the Homepage
Some jurisdictions have requirements for the geographic location of your law firm or office. The most restrictive states require that your city or town in which your principal office is located to be on the homepage. Links to a “contact” page where this information is displayed is generally not sufficient. Other states require that you not advertise other offices other than your main location unless you have staff available at that location at least three days per week, the advertisement states that meetings are by appointment only, or the advertisement clearly states the days and times that a lawyer will be available at that particular office.
Ensure that Your Website is Following Your State’s Bar Rules
For more information about adhering to your state’s guidelines and to determine whether your website is in compliance with these regulations, contact us today by filling out our website evaluation form or by calling us at (888) 317-3688. We are a leading provider of website design services, and we work exclusively with lawyers nationwide to increase their search rankings and attain top search positions for competitive legal keywords.