Alabama Bar Rules for Lawyer Advertising
Any attorney in Alabama should consult the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct if they wish to redesign their website or start a new marketing campaign online. These rules are to help attorneys advertise in a fair and honest manner. Those who violate these rules may be subject to fines or disciplinary action by the Alabama Bar.
Although the rules in Alabama are restrictive, an attorney can stay in full compliance while still having an extremely effective internet marketing campaign. Taking an ethical approach to marketing means following the letter and spirit of each rule. Using search engine terms, social media, and lawyer directories can keep your site relevant to all search enginge algorithims.
Additional Resources on Bar Rules for Attorney Advertising
Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct - Read the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct related to communicating information about legal services for websites, blog posts, social media platforms, and in online advertisements.
Alabama Ethics Opinions - Read the OGC Formal Opinions on the website of the Alabama State Bar.
Links to State Ethics Rules Governing Lawyer Advertising - Find information from the American Bar Association explaining the differences between the bar rules in different states along with important links to more information in each state.
Disclaimers on Websites for Attorneys Ads in Alabama
The bar rules for attorney advertising are geared toward protecting the public. Disclaimers often help the public understand the limitations of the claims made on the attorney's website. For example, the disclaimer might explain that:
- No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.
- The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements.
- The attorney's website is not intended to be an advertisement or solicitation.
Other types of disclaimers should be used when discussing case results or testimonials.
Rule 7.1 Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services
A lawyer shall not make or cause to be made a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services. A communication is false or misleading if it:
(a) contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading;
(b) is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law;
(c) compares the quality of the lawyer's services with the quality of other lawyers' services, except as provided in Rule 7.4; or
(d) communicated the certification of the lawyer by a certifying organization, except as provided in Rule 7.4.
Rule 7.2 Advertising
A lawyer who advertises concerning legal services shall comply with the following:
(a) Subject to the requirements of Rule 7.1, a lawyer may advertise services through public media, such as a telephone directory, legal directory, newspaper or other periodical, outdoor displays, radio, television, or written communication not involving solicitation as defined in Rule 7.3.
(b) A true copy or recording of any such advertisement shall be delivered or mailed to the office of the general counsel of the Alabama State Bar at its then current headquarters within three (3) days after the date on which any such advertisement is first disseminated; the contemplated duration thereof and the identity of the publisher or broadcaster of such advertisement, either within the advertisement or by separate communication accompanying said advertisement, shall be stated. Also, a copy or recording of any such advertisement shall be kept by the lawyer responsible for its content, as provided hereinafter by Rule 7.2(d), for six (6) years after its last dissemination.
(c) 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 any advertisement or written communication permitted by this rule and may pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit lawyer referral service.
(d) Any communication made pursuant to this rule shall include the name of at least one lawyer responsible for its content.
(e) No communication concerning a lawyer's services shall be published or broadcast, unless it contains the following language, which shall be clearly legible or audible, as the case may be: "No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers."
(f) If fees are stated in the advertisement, the lawyer or law firm advertising must perform the advertised services at the advertised fee, and the failure of the lawyer and/or law firm advertising to perform an advertised service at the advertised fee shall be prima facie evidence of misleading advertising and deceptive practices. The lawyer or law firm advertising shall be bound to perform the advertised services for the advertised fee and expenses for a period of not less than sixty (60) days following the date of the last publication or broadcast.
Rule 7.4 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 a specialist except as follows:
(a) a lawyer admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office may use the designation "Patent Attorney" or a substantially similar designation;
(b) a lawyer engaged in admiralty practice may use the designation "Admiralty," "Proctor in Admiralty," or a substantially similar designation; or
(c) a lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer has been certified as a specialist in a field of law by a named organization or authority, but only if such certification is granted by an organization previously approved by the Alabama State Bar Board of Legal Certification to grant such certifications.
Rule 7.5 Firm Names and Letterheads
(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead, or other professional designation that violates Rule 7.1. A trade name may be used by a lawyer in private practice if it does not imply a connection with a government agency or with a public or charitable organization and is not otherwise in violation of Rule 7.1 or Rule 7.4.
(b) A law firm with offices in another jurisdiction may use in Alabama the name it uses in the other jurisdiction, provided the use of that name would comply with these rules. A firm with any lawyers not licensed to practice in Alabama must, if such lawyer's name appears on the firm's letterhead, state that the lawyer is not licensed to practice in Alabama.
(c) A lawyer or law firm may indicate on any letterhead or other communication permitted by these rules other jurisdictions in which the lawyer or the members or associates of the law firm are admitted to practice.
(d) The name of a lawyer holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer is not practicing with the firm.
This article was last updated on October 10, 2018.