Missouri Bar Rules for Attorney Advertising
Attorneys who wish to advertise online or begin a new Internet marketing campaign must consult with the Missouri Bar Rules relating to online advertising. These rules outline the advertising regulations attorneys must follow to be able to market themselves on the Internet. Failure to uphold these rules may result in a type of disciplinary action such as expensive fines.
If you are new to advertising online, reading the applicable bar rules pertaining to attorney advertising is a good start. Many of the rules related to attorney advertising online in Missouri can be found at Rule 4-7.1 through Rule 4-7.5 in the section for Information About Legal Services. Additional information can be found in the comments and the Ethics Advisory Opinions interpreting the rules.
Although the rules in the State of Missouri are restrictive, an attorney can stay in full compliance while still having an extremely effective internet marketing campaign. Staying ethical is crucial for attorneys and there are multiple ways to advertise online while following the Bar Rules. Using search engine terms, lawyer directories, making social media accounts, and using appropriate meta tags can help you create a strong Internet presence.
Resources for Missouri Bar Rules
Rule 4-7.2 - Advertising Rules for Missouri Attorneys - Read Missouri Rule 4-7.2 for Advertising, the comment to the rule, and the supplemental Missouri comment. The last amendments to this rule became effective on July 1, 2010.
Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct - Find the rules for Information about Legal Services located at Rule 4-7.1 for Communication Concerning a Lawyer's Services, Rule 4-7.2 for Advertising, Rule 4-7.3 for Direct Contact with Prospective Clients, and Rule 4-7.4 for Communication of Fields of Practice and Specialization.
Supreme Court of Missouri - Visit the website for the Supreme Court of Missouri, which provides opinions of the court on various legal topics, courts and rules of the court, and miscellaneous resources about the Missouri judicial system. The Supreme Court is located at:
Supreme Court of Missouri
207 West High Street
Jefferson City, MO 65101
Phone (573) 751-4144
Missouri Informal Advisory Opinions - Search the informal advisory opinions provided by the Missouri Legal Ethics Counsel. The opinions give attorneys legal advice in hypothetical ethical situations.
Missouri Bar Rules Information Center
- Bar Rule Guidelines in Missouri
- False and Misleading Information on Missouri Attorney Websites
- Disclaimers on Missouri Law Firm Websites
- Practice Areas on Missouri Lawyer Websites
Bar Rule Guidelines in Missouri
All attorney advertisements and communications are generally governed by the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct. Advertisements and communications typically include websites and other content published on the internet, in addition to any other advertisement through public media, phone directories, legal directories, newspapers, radio, direct mail and television.
Rule 4-7.2 states that a lawyer or law firm is not permitted to advertise the existence of any other office besides the principal office on their website, unless any of the following apply:
- The other office is staffed by an attorney at least three days per week, or
- The advertisement states the days and times when a lawyer will be present in the office or that meetings at the office are by appointment only.
False and Misleading Information on Missouri Attorney Websites
Under Rule 4-7.1 of the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney is not permitted to make false or misleading information about the attorney or the services they provide.
The Rules states that a communication made by the attorney may be false if it contains a material misrepresentation of law or fact.
According to the Rule, a communication made by the attorney may be misleading if any of the following apply:
- The communication omits a fact that makes the statement materially misleading when taken as a whole;
- The communication contains any reference to past case results about the damage award or the attorney's record in obtaining positive verdicts or settlements, without a disclaimer that the same results are not guaranteed in the future;
- The communication is likely to create an unjustified expectation as to the results the attorney is able to achieve;
- The communication compares the lawyer's services to that of another, unless they can be factually verified;
- The communication advertises for a specific type of case the attorney has no experience with or competence in;
- The communication states or implies that the lawyer can attain results in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct; and
- The communication states that legal services are available on a contingent basis without stating the client may be responsible for expenses or costs.
Additionally, the comments to Rule 4-7.1 state that inclusion of certain pricing factors are not discouraged by the rule, but use of the following terms may be misleading:
- "Below cost,"
- "Special," and
The comments also state the following scenarios may be misleading to a potential client or viewer of the website:
- The communication states or implies the attorney is able to improperly influence any public official, legislative body or tribunal; and
- The communication includes the portrayal of a former judge in a courtroom or in a robe along with a reference the lawyer as "judge."
Disclaimers on Missouri Law Firm Websites
Under Rule 4-7.2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct state a specified disclaimer must be included on every legal advertisement, including attorney or law firm websites, except if the communicated information is limited to:
- The law firm's name and the lawyers in the firm;
- The fields of law the lawyer or law firm practices in;
- Any federal or state bar admissions and the dates of admission; and
- Contact information, including the address, e-mail address, phone number and office hours.
Any other advertisement must include the following disclaimer:
- "The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements."
Rule 4-7.1 also states an additional disclaimer must be used in the situations listed below. If a disclaimer is not conspicuously used, the statement, advertisement or communication may be considered misleading.
- A communication containing a dramatization or re-creation of a lawyer, client, victim, scene or event;
- A communication containing any paid endorsement or testimonial;
- A communication providing an office address for an office that is only staffed part time or by appointment only; and
- A communication including a practice area that the lawyer routinely refers to other attorneys.
A disclaimer is generally considered conspicuous in Missouri if it is of the same size, color, contrast, cadence, duration, location or audibility that an ordinary person can notice, hear, read or understand it.
Practice Areas on Missouri Lawyer Websites
According to Rule 4-7.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney is permitted to state whether they do or do not practice in particular fields of law. However, an attorney may not state or imply they are a specialist in a particular legal field, unless:
- The attorney uses the designation, "Patent Attorney" or something substantially similar if they are admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office;
- The attorney uses the designation, "Admiralty," "Proctor in Admiralty" or something substantially similar if they are engaged in admiralty practice; or
- The attorney includes the disclaimer that neither the Supreme Court of Missouri nor The Missouri Bar approve or review certifying organizations or specialist designations.
Understanding Missouri's Rules on Attorney Advertising
An attorney is generally responsible for the conduct of his non-attorney employees and independent contractors if the attorney orders the conduct, ratifies the conduct, or knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action. Therefore, it is important for attorneys to choose a website design and internet marketing company carefully.
At Internet LAVA, LLC, our team focuses exclusively on building websites and internet marketing campaigns for attorneys and legal professionals. Our team builds websites for attorneys in a wide variety of practice areas such as criminal defense, personal injury, immigration, bankruptcy and employment law. Call Internet LAVA, LLC, to discuss designing your law firm's website or launching a new internet marketing campaign.
Last updated on Wednesday, October 10, 2018.