Lawyers Laws and Advertising Regulations


Laws governing lawyers and regulations that govern attorney conduct are discussed below. The ability to practice in the legal profession as licensed attorneys and the advertisement of their services is governed by law to help protect the public from fraud, misrepresentation or system abuse.

Further information on the laws in Florida can be found by following this link: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org

According to floridabar.org  “””Article V, Section 15 of the Constitution of the State of Florida gives the Supreme Court of Florida exclusive and ultimate authority to regulate the admission of persons to the practice of law and the discipline of those persons who are admitted to practice. The Court performs those official functions through two separate arms: the Florida Board of Bar Examiners , which screens, tests and certifies candidates for admission to the practice; and The Florida Bar, the investigative and prosecutorial authority in the lawyer regulatory process. Neither of these two agencies, nor any of their functions, is supported by state tax dollars.”””

The Florida Bar News is where current laws governing lawyers can be found.  The laws or “Rules” are dynamic.  Below are highlights of the laws found on floridabar.org and last updated July 1, 2012.  The rule provided below is 4-7.2 and is regarding the current advertising laws for lawyers and attorneys licensed in Florida.

RULE 4-7.2 COMMUNICATIONS CONCERNING A LAWYER’S SERVICES

The following shall apply to any communication conveying information about a lawyer’s or a law firm’s services except as provided in subdivisions (e) and (f) of rule 4-7.1:

(a) Required Content of Advertisements and Unsolicited Written Communications.

(1) Name of Lawyer or Lawyer Referral Service. All advertisements and written communications pursuant to these rules shall include the name of at least 1 lawyer or the lawyer referral service responsible for their content.

(2) Location of Practice. All advertisements and written communications provided for under these rules shall disclose, by city or town, 1 or more bona fide office locations of the lawyer or lawyers who will actually perform the services advertised. If the office location is outside a city or town, the county in which the office is located must be disclosed. A lawyer referral service shall disclose the geographic area in which the lawyer practices when a referral is made. For the purposes of this rule, a bona fide office is defined as a physical location maintained by the lawyer or law firm where the lawyer or law firm reasonably expects to furnish legal services in a substantial way on a regular and continuing basis.

(b) Permissible Content of Advertisements and Unsolicited Written Communications. If the content of an advertisement in any public media or unsolicited written communication is limited to the following information, the advertisement or unsolicited written communication, if true and not prohibited by law, shall be presumed to be permissible and not to be misleading or deceptive under these rules.

(1) Lawyers and Law Firms. A lawyer or law firm may include the following information in advertisements and unsolicited written communications:

(A) the name of the lawyer or law firm subject to the requirements of this rule and rule 4-7.9, a listing of lawyers associated with the firm, office locations and parking arrangements, disability accommodations, telephone numbers, website addresses, and electronic mail addresses, office and telephone service hours, and a designation such as “attorney” or “law firm”;

(B) date of admission to The Florida Bar and any other bars, current membership or positions held in The Florida Bar or its sections or committees, former membership or positions held in The Florida Bar or its sections or committees with dates of membership, former positions of employment held in the legal profession with dates the positions were held, years of experience practicing law, number of lawyers in the advertising law firm, and a listing of federal courts and jurisdictions other than Florida where the lawyer is licensed to practice;

(C) technical and professional licenses granted by the state or other recognized licensing authorities and educational degrees received, including dates and institutions;

(D) military service, including branch and dates of service; 

(E) foreign language ability;

(F) fields of law in which the lawyer practices, including official certification logos, subject to the requirements of subdivision (c)(6) of this rule regarding use of terms such as certified, specialist, and expert;

(G) prepaid or group legal service plans in which the lawyer participates;

(H) acceptance of credit cards;

(I) fee for initial consultation and fee schedule, subject to the requirements of subdivisions (c)(7) and (c)(8) of this rule regarding cost disclosures and honoring advertised fees;

(J) common salutary language such as “best wishes,” “good luck,” “happy holidays,” or “pleased to announce”; 

(K) punctuation marks and common typographical marks;

(L) an illustration of the scales of justice not deceptively similar to official certification logos or The Florida Bar logo, a gavel, traditional renditions of Lady Justice, the Statue of Liberty, the American flag, the American eagle, the State of Florida flag, an unadorned set of law books, the inside or outside of a courthouse, column(s), diploma(s), or a photograph of the lawyer or lawyers who are members of or employed by the firm against a plain background consisting of a single solid color or a plain unadorned set of law books.(2) Lawyer Referral Services. A lawyer referral service may advertise its name, location, telephone number, the referral fee charged, its hours of operation, the process by which referrals are made, the areas of law in which referrals are offered, the geographic area in which the lawyers practice to whom those responding to the advertisement will be referred, and, if applicable, its nonprofit status, its status as a lawyer referral service approved by The Florida Bar, and the logo of its sponsoring bar association.

(3) Public Service Announcements. A lawyer or law firm may be listed as a sponsor of a public service announcement or charitable, civic, or community program or event as long as the information about the lawyer or law firm is limited to the permissible content set forth in subdivision (b)(1) of this rule.

(c) Prohibitions and General Regulations Governing Content of Advertisements and Unsolicited Written Communications.

(1) Statements About Legal Services. A lawyer shall not make or permit to be made a false, misleading, or deceptive communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication violates this rule if it:

(A) contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law;

(B) is false or misleading;

(C) fails to disclose material information necessary to prevent the information supplied from being false or misleading;

(D) is unsubstantiated in fact;

(E) is deceptive;

(F) contains any reference to past successes or results obtained;

(G) promises results;

(H) states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law;

(I) compares the lawyer’s services with other lawyers’ services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated; or

(J) contains a testimonial.

(2) Descriptive Statements. A lawyer shall not make statements describing or characterizing the quality of the lawyer’s services in advertisements and unsolicited written communications.

(3) Prohibited Visual and Verbal Portrayals and Illustrations. A lawyer shall not include in any advertisement or unsolicited written communication any visual or verbal descriptions, depictions, illustrations, or portrayals of persons, things, or events that are deceptive, misleading, manipulative, or likely to confuse the viewer.

(4) Advertising Areas of Practice. A lawyer or law firm shall not advertise for legal employment in an area of practice in which the advertising lawyer or law firm does not currently practice law.

(5) Stating or Implying Florida Bar Approval. A lawyer or law firm shall not make any statement that directly or impliedly indicates that the communication has received any kind of approval from The Florida Bar.

(6) Communication of Fields of Practice. A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law. A lawyer shall not state or imply that the lawyer is “certified,” “board certified,” a “specialist,” or an “expert” except as follows:

(A) Florida Bar Certified Lawyers. A lawyer who complies with the Florida certification plan as set forth in chapter 6, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, may inform the public and other lawyers of the lawyer’s certified areas of legal practice. Such communications should identify The Florida Bar as the certifying organization and may state that the lawyer is “certified,” “board certified,” a “specialist in (area of certification),” or an “expert in (area of certification).”

(B) Lawyers Certified by Organizations Other Than The Florida Bar or Another State Bar. A lawyer certified by an organization other than The Florida Bar or another state bar may inform the public and other lawyers of the lawyer’s certified area(s) of legal practice by stating that the lawyer is “certified,” “board certified,” a “specialist in (area of certification),” or an “expert in (area of certification)” if:

(i) the organization’s program has been accredited by The Florida Bar as provided elsewhere in these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar; and,

(ii) the member includes the full name of the organization in all communications pertaining to such certification.

(C) Certification by Other State Bars. A lawyer certified by another state bar may inform the public and other lawyers of the lawyer’s certified area(s) of legal practice and may state in communications to the public that the lawyer is “certified,” “board certified,” a “specialist in (area of certification),” or an “expert in (area of certification)” if:

(i) the state bar program grants certification on the basis of standards reasonably comparable to the standards of the Florida certification plan as set forth in chapter 6, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, as determined by The Florida Bar; and,

(ii) the member includes the name of the state bar in all communications pertaining to such certification.

(7) Disclosure of Liability For Expenses Other Than Fees. Every advertisement and unsolicited written communication that contains information about the lawyer’s fee, including those that indicate no fee will be charged in the absence of a recovery, shall disclose whether the client will be liable for any expenses in addition to the fee.

(8) Period for Which Advertised Fee Must Be Honored. A lawyer who advertises a specific fee or range of fees for a particular service shall honor the advertised fee or range of fees for at least 90 days unless the advertisement specifies a shorter period; provided that, for advertisements in the yellow pages of telephone directories or other media not published more frequently than annually, the advertised fee or range of fees shall be honored for no less than 1 year following publication.

(9) Firm Name. A lawyer shall not advertise services under a name that violates the provisions of rule 4-7.9.

(10) Language of Required Statements. Any words or statements required by this subchapter to appear in an advertisement or direct mail communication must appear in the same language in which the advertisement appears. If more than 1 language is used in an advertisement or direct mail communication, any words or statements required by this subchapter must appear in each language used in the advertisement or direct mail communication.

(11) Appearance of Required Statements. Any words or statements required by this subchapter to appear in an advertisement or direct mail communication must be clearly legible if written or intelligible if spoken aloud.

(12) Payment by Nonadvertising Lawyer. No lawyer shall, directly or indirectly, pay all or a part of the cost of an advertisement by a lawyer not in the same firm. Rule 4-1.5(f)(4)(D) (regarding the division of contingency fees) is not affected by this provision even though the lawyer covered by rule 4-1.5(f)(4)(D)(ii) advertises.

(13) Referrals to Another Lawyer. If the case or matter will be referred to another lawyer or law firm, the communication shall include a statement so advising the prospective client.

(14) Payment for Recommendations; Lawyer Referral Service Fees. A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services, except that a lawyer may pay the reasonable cost of advertising or written or recorded communication permitted by these rules, may pay the usual charges of a lawyer referral service or other legal service organization, and may purchase a law practice in accordance with rule 4-1.17.

(15) Use of Celebrity Prohibited. A lawyer shall not include in any advertisement or unsolicited written communication any celebrity whose voice or image is recognizable to the public.

(16) Prohibited Sounds. A lawyer shall not include in any advertisement or unsolicited written communication any sound that is deceptive, misleading, manipulative, or that is likely to confuse the listener.

Comment

This rule governs all communications about a lawyer’s services, including advertising permitted by this subchapter. Whatever means are used to make known a lawyer’s services, statements about them must be truthful. This precludes any material misrepresentation or misleading omission, such as where a lawyer states or implies certification or recognition as a specialist other than in accordance with this rule, where a lawyer implies that any court, tribunal, or other public body or official can be improperly influenced, or where a lawyer advertises a particular fee or a contingency fee without disclosing whether the client will also be liable for costs. Another example of a misleading omission is an advertisement for a law firm that states that all the firm’s lawyers are juris doctors but does not disclose that a juris doctorate is a law degree rather than a medical degree of some sort and that virtually any law firm in the United States can make the same claim. Although this rule permits lawyers to list the jurisdictions and courts to which they are admitted, it also would be misleading for a lawyer who does not list other jurisdictions or courts to state that the lawyer is a member of The Florida Bar. Standing by itself, that otherwise truthful statement implies falsely that the lawyer possesses a qualification not common to virtually all lawyers practicing in Florida.

Prohibited information

The prohibition in subdivision (c)(1)(F) precludes advertisements about results obtained on behalf of a client, such as the amount of a damage award or the lawyer’s record in obtaining favorable verdicts. Such information may create the unjustified expectation that similar results can be obtained for others without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances.

The prohibition in subdivision (c)(1)(I) of comparisons that cannot be factually substantiated would preclude a lawyer from representing that the lawyer or the lawyer’s law firm is “the best,” “one of the best,” or “one of the most experienced” in a field of law.

The prohibition in subdivision (c)(1)(J) precludes endorsements or testimonials, whether from clients or anyone else, because they are inherently misleading to a person untrained in the law. Potential clients are likely to infer from the testimonial that the lawyer will reach similar results in future cases. Because the lawyer cannot directly make this assertion, the lawyer is not permitted to indirectly make that assertion through the use of testimonials.

Subdivision (c)(3) prohibits visual or verbal descriptions, depictions, portrayals, or illustrations in any advertisement which create suspense, or contain exaggerations or appeals to the emotions, call for legal services, or create consumer problems through characterization and dialogue ending with the lawyer solving the problem. Illustrations permitted under Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Ohio, 471 U.S. 626 (1985), are informational and not misleading, and are therefore permissible. As an example, a drawing of a fist, to suggest the lawyer’s ability to achieve results, would be barred. Examples of permissible illustrations would include a graphic rendering of the scales of justice to indicate that the advertising attorney practices law, a picture of the lawyer, or a map of the office location.

Communication of fields of practice

This rule permits a lawyer or law firm to indicate areas of practice in communications about the lawyer’s or law firm’s services, such as in a telephone directory or other advertising, provided the advertising lawyer or law firm actually practices in those areas of law at the time the advertisement is disseminated. If a lawyer practices only in certain fields, or will not accept matters except in such fields, the lawyer is permitted so to indicate. However, no lawyer who is not certified by The Florida Bar, by another state bar with comparable standards, or an organization accredited by The Florida Bar may be described to the public as a “specialist” or as “specializing,” “certified,” “board certified,” being an “expert” or having “expertise in,” or any variation of similar import. A lawyer may indicate that the lawyer concentrates in, focuses on, or limits the lawyer’s practice to particular areas of practice as long as the statements are true.

Paying others to recommend a lawyer

A lawyer is allowed to pay for advertising permitted by this rule and for the purchase of a law practice in accordance with the provisions of rule 4-1.17, but otherwise is not permitted to pay or provide other tangible benefits to another person for procuring professional work. However, a legal aid agency or prepaid legal services plan may pay to advertise legal services provided under its auspices. Likewise, a lawyer may participate in lawyer referral programs and pay the usual fees charged by such programs, subject, however, to the limitations imposed by rule 4-7.10. This rule does not prohibit paying regular compensation to an assistant, such as a secretary or advertising consultant, to prepare communications permitted by this rule.

Required disclosures

Required disclosures would be ineffective if they appeared in an advertisement so briefly or minutely as to be overlooked or ignored. Thus, required information must be legible if written or intelligible if spoken aloud to ensure that the recipient receives the information.

Use of sounds

The prohibition against deceptive, misleading, or manipulative sounds precludes, for example, the sound of sirens or car crashes.

Full content found on July 11, 2012 at : http://www.floridabar.org/divexe/rrtfb.nsf/FV/805933D56732F188852573C6006D4167

accessed through :
http://www.floridabar.org/divexe/rrtfb.nsf/FV?Openview&Start=1&Expand=4.9#4.9

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