NEW Advertising Rules from the Florida Bar: Effective May 1, 2013 Are you in compliance?

The Florida Bar recently came out with a list of new advertising rules. According to the Supreme Court of Florida, the new rules are designed to be ‘more cohesive’- easier for lawyers to understand and less cumbersome for the Bar to apply and enforce.

These new rules apply to any and all print and electronic forms of advertising, which includes: websites, online banner ads, pop-up ads, videos and social media sites. These rules also apply to testimonials and past case results. We have identified ten important aspects attorneys need to be mindful of when it comes to these new advertising rules.

1. All ads must include the firm name or lawyer name and office location/locations. Every Twitter and Facebook post must include the name of the lawyer, law firm and office address.

2. All banner ads must be filed with the Florida Bar for review. These must be filed at least 20 days before their first use with the Florida Bar. If no communication is sent within 15 days of receipt by the bar, the ad is deemed approved. Law firm or lawyer websites are not required to be filed with the bar. However, you can do so with specific web pages (i.e. – testimonials page, case results page) to ensure that your firm’s website is in compliance.

3. The Florida Bar rules prohibit any advertising statements that are “deceptive and inherently misleading.” In order to avoid any legal ramifications, it is best to only include statements in advertisements that are “objectively verifiable.” Avoid any subjective statements or superlatives (i.e. – Best Lawyer in Miami, Greatest Personal Injury Attorney).

4. Attorneys are permitted to posting past verdicts and settlements on their websites as long as they have their client’s informed consent before posting. These posts must also be “objectively verifiable” and must not omit pertinent case information.

5. The Florida Bar rules prohibits attorneys from promising future results to a client. It is best to stay away from any definite statements regarding compensation for damages for prospective clients.

6. Attorneys are permitted to post client testimonials to their websites or advertisements as long as they are truthful and based on real experiences. Additionally, attorneys must provide a disclaimer that ‘prospective clients may not obtain the same or similar results.’

7. Advertisements prohibit the inclusion of authority figures such as judges, celebrities, law enforcement officers or actors portraying them to endorse the lawyer.

8. Include all fees when discussing fees and costs on your website, even if you are discussing contingent fees. If you offer contingent fees excluding costs, you must disclose this on your firm’s website.

9. When it comes to direct mail and direct email, these must be marked “Advertisement” in a color that contrasts with both the background and with other text on the face of the envelope or self-mailer and on each page of enclosures or each panel of the brochure. If this correspondence is sent at the client’s request, it does not need to include the advertisement disclaimer.

10. If you list your firm or attorneys within your firm in a legal directory, it must also comply with the Florida Bar’s latest advertising rules. The directory cannot involve any type of prohibited fee-splitting or state/imply that the directory is Florida Bar endorsed or approved.

If you have any questions on the Florida Bar’s NEW advertising rules or would like to hear how the latest media, marketing and technology strategies can help grow your law firm, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale public relations firm at (954) 376-3683. Also serving Central Florida and surrounding areas at (407) 982-1707.