Michigan Bar Rules for Attorney Advertising
Attorneys who wish to market online are obligated to read the Michigan Bar Rules related to Internet advertising. The Michigan Bar has released Rules of Professional Conduct that outlines all online marketing guidelines for attorneys wishing to boost their site. Those who do not uphold these regulations may be subject to disciplinary sanctions or actions. The purpose of these rules is for all lawyers in Michigan to promote themselves in a fair and honest manner.
The rules listed in the Michigan Bar Rules of Professional Conduct may seem limiting to some wishing to market themselves. However, there are multiple ways to have an Internet presence while staying in compliance with the Michigan Bar Rules. Using search engine terms, having active social media accounts, and understanding the search engine algorithims can help you market online effectively.
Michigan Bar Rules Resources
State Bar of Michigan - Visit the website for the State Bar of Michigan for helpful information and resources regarding the bar rules in Michigan. The State Bar of Michigan can be contacted at:
State Bar of Michigan
Michael Franck Building
306 Townsend St.
Lansing, MI 48933
Phone: (517) 346-6300
Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct - This link is to a PDF file of the general rules of professional conduct and ethics all licensed Michigan lawyers must abide by.
Michigan Ethics Opinions - This link provides information to ethics opinions in Michigan that suggest actions to attorneys in hypothetical legal situations. Although these opinions are not mandatory, they are suggested guidelines lawyers in Michigan should follow. This links also provides access to an ethics helpline for attorneys with questions pertaining to ethics issues.
Michigan Supreme Court - This link is to the Michigan Supreme Court, which provides information on court rules in Michigan, court opinions on various legal topics and miscellaneous information about the court. The Supreme Court is located at:
Michigan Hall of Justice
925 West Ottawa
Lansing, Michigan 48915
Phone: (517) 373-0120
Michigan Bar Rules Information Center
- Michigan Bar Rule Guidelines
- Prohibited Language on Michigan Legal Websites
- Disclaimers on Michigan Law Firm Websites
- Practice Areas on Michigan Attorney Websites
Michigan Bar Rule Guidelines
In general the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct govern attorney and law firm content that is published on the internet, in addition to attorney or law firm advertising and marketing websites.
Typically an attorney's or law firm's website in Michigan requires at least one attorney's name to be published on the website that is responsible for the content on the website. This does not mean the attorney must write the content, but that they are ultimately responsible for the content. Also, the attorney or law firm's address where they primarily practice should be included on the website.
Additionally, according to Rule 7.2, a copy of attorney advertisements in Michigan must be kept for two years after the advertisement was last used, in addition to a record of where and when it was last used.
Prohibited Language on Michigan Legal Websites
Generally, an attorney must not make any communications that are not false, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive, according to Rule 7.1 of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct. The rule further state that an attorney must not make any type of communication, including on a website, that:
- Contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law;
- Omits a fact necessary to make the statement not misleading when taken as a whole;
- Creates an unjustified expectation about the results the attorney is able to achieve; or
- Compares the attorney's services to that of another, unless the comparison can be verified through facts.
Additionally, according to the comments of Rule 7.1, statements that may create an unjustified expectation as to the attorney's services can include:
- Results previously obtained on a client's behalf,
- The lawyer's record in obtaining favorable verdicts,
- The amount of the damage award in any given case, and
- Any other advertisement containing a client endorsement.
Additionally, according to the comments to Rule 7.2, an attorney or law firm may not pay another person or party to recommend their services, except in the case of another organization who recommends the attorney's services, such as a legal aid agency or a prepaid legal services plan.
Disclaimers on Michigan Law Firm Websites
If an attorney includes information on their website that has the potential to be false or misleading, it is generally a good idea to include a disclaimer on the website.
The website's disclaimer or disclosure should be presented with equal legibility, prominence and in the same manner as the rest of the website's content. This type of disclaimer will limit the potential of possible clients from being mislead as to the results the attorney is able to attain.
Practice Areas on Michigan Attorney Websites
According to Rule 7.4 of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney is permitted to communicate on their website that they do or do not practice in a particular area of law.
However, when indicating what type of practice area the lawyer works in, they must not include information that can be false or misleading under Rule 7.1. For example, a lawyer should not state they are "specialized" or a "specialist" in certain areas of the law, unless they are certified by the proper authority in the particular area of law they are claiming to be specialized or a specialist in.
This article was last updated on October 10, 2018.