Online Law Firm Marketing: Are lawyers who follow ABA's Code of Ethics?

Online Law Firm Marketing: Are lawyers who follow ABA's Code of Ethics?

Team is a profession mature with tradition. This profession is one of the few self-regulating professions and governed by a variety of professional rules, ethical opinions and applicable common law. It is well-known that historically, the law itself has been deeply adapted to incorporate technological progress within its parameters. This applies to the ethical rules for professional behavior. But as more and more lawyers now turn to the Internet to market their practices through legal websites, blogs and other social media, there will be an increased need for further regulation regarding ethical advertising on the internet.

The American Bar Association (ABA) has draft model ethical rules for states to assume and attorneys to follow. Today, these rules are called the Model Rules for Professional Exercise (Rules) and were adopted by ABA's 1983 delegation. These rules were changed from the Model Code of Professional Responsibility. In addition, the predecessor of both was actually 1908 Canon or Professional Ethics.

As noted, the rules are not actually binding on a lawyer until their state has either adopted them or any other related professional rules. At present, all states, apart from California, have adopted the ABA rules at least in part. Most states have adopted the ABA rules in its entirety with minor changes or additions to them. Other states, such as New York, have adopted the ABA rules but contained significant changes.

The rules and the various compilations include provisions on advertising and call for proposals. Depending on the state, the difference between each of these terms may be minimal or significant. Advertising generally refers to all public or private communications made by or on behalf of a lawyer or law firm regarding the services that are available primarily for the purpose of maintaining the law firm or the law firm's services. However, call is a form of advertising but is specially initiated by or for a lawyer or law firm and is aimed at or directed at a particular group of persons, families or friends or legal representatives whose main purpose is also to store the law or law firm's services.

Although the rules are aimed at advertising and calling on the internet, they are surprising. These gaps are somewhat filled with ethical opinions or jurisprudence. But it generally means that a lawyer has already gone through the process and unfortunately probably been subject to discipline.

However, the rules provide a fairly strong reason for a lawyer or law firm to read. Although your licensing rules for the business do not contain sufficient marketing rules, you can still consult ABA guidelines for guidance.

Within the Rules, the primary site is to see Rule 7. This rule applies to legal service information and contains most applicable Internet Marketing Laws for lawyers. Please note that there are still other provisions that are spread throughout the rules applicable to marketing. This is just the most applicable concentration of provisions that a lawyer should consult first before looking for the other sections elsewhere.

Rule 7.1 is the first and more comprehensive provision a lawyer should be concerned about. This section has the title of Legal Services Notices and prohibits a lawyer from making false or misleading communications about the lawyer or law firm. A false or misleading message is further defined in the rule and comments such as one that contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law or excludes a fact that is necessary to render the statement as a whole not substantially misleading. Comment 1 explicitly states that rule 7.1 applies to a lawyer's or law firm's website, blog or other advertising as it states that this provision governs all communications on lawyers, including advertising permitted under Rule 7.2.

According to Rule 7.2, which is generally entitled to advertising, lawyers allow advertisements through written, recorded or electronic communications. Comment 3 confirms that electronic media, such as the Internet, can be an important source of information about legal services. Thus, this only solidifies the fact that 7.2 and therefore 7.1 apply to internet legal marketing.

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