Before you redesign your law firm's website or start a new internet marketing campaign, read the bar rules for attorney advertising including the New York Rules of Professional Conduct at Rule 7.1 through Rule 7.5. Additional information can be found in the comments to the rules and the Ethics Advisory Opinions interpreting the rules.
Many of these bar rules on attorney advertisements in New York tracks the language found in the model bar rules drafted by the American Bar Association.
The bar rules explain what information is prohibited, what information is permissible, and what information is obligatory. For example, the bar rule prohibits any statements or claims that are false, deceptive, misleading, or that otherwise violates any other bar rule.
Unless the attorney has earned recognition as a board-certified specialist by a recognized organization, the bar rules in New York limit the way an attorney can describe their practice or services as a specialty, specialist, or expert.
The rules also require certain information about the attorney or the law firm to be included in the advertisement. In some cases, specific disclaimers are required. Attorneys should be particularly careful when explaining their prior case results or using testimonials on a website or social media platform.
Navigating the New York Bar Rules on advertising can be a confusing process. If you make a mistake, you might expose yourself to disciplinary actions. For this reason, it is important to hire an internet marketing company that understands the bar rules in New York.
Before you redesign your law firm's website or start a new internet marketing campaign, it's important that you have a thorough understanding of applicable bar rules. Although the rules in the State of New York are restrictive, an attorney can stay in full compliance while still having an extremely effective internet marketing campaign.
If you are interested in finding an internet marketing and website design company that understands the bar rules, then contact our parent company, Internet Lava, LLC. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss designing a better website and internet marketing strategy.
Rule 7.1 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct governs attorney and law firm advertisements, including computer-accessed communications, such as the content published on the internet and websites that advertise or market the law firm's or lawyer's services.
Under Rule 1.0(a) of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct, the term "advertisement" is defined to include any "public or private communication made by, or on behalf of, a lawyer or law firm, about that lawyer or law firm's services, the primary purpose for which is the retention of the lawyer or law firm, except communications to current clients or other lawyers."
Under Rule 7.3(b), the term "solicitation" is defined as an "advertisement initiated by, or on behalf of, a lawyer or law firm that is directed to, or targeted at, a specific recipient or group of recipients, or their family members or legal representatives, the primary purpose for which is the retention of the lawyer or law firm, and a significant motive for which is pecuniary gain (pro bono matters are exempt)."
In general, Rule 1.0(c) of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct defines computer-accessed communications as any communication made by or on behalf of the lawyer or law firm that is distributed through any of the following computer or electronic mediums:
A New York lawyer or law firm is required to pre-approve any advertisement, including websites. Furthermore, the attorney must retain a copy of the website for at least one year.
A copy of the contents of any website are required to be preserved upon the initial publication of the website, upon any major redesign, or upon a meaningful and extensive change in the content, according to Rule 7.1(k).
The rules recognize that not all communications to existing clients or other lawyers are advertisements. For example, Rule 1.0(a) explains that a lawyer may write for publication on legal topics (or speak publicly) without affecting the right to accept employment so long as the lawyer does not give individual advice.
On the other hand, Rule 7.1(r) recognizes that the term "without affecting the right to accept employment" means that lawyers may ethically obtain business by giving speeches and writing articles about legal topics.
Since the law firm's website is considered to be a form of advertising, certain information must be contained on the website including:
As a practical matter, the name of the law firm and the office address should be in the footer of the home page and each interior page on the website. We also suggest that attorneys in New York add a disclaim that identifies the website as a form of "Attorney Advertising."
If the attorney provides a discussion area on their website, they should be careful to avoid creating an expectation that an attorney-client relationship has been created. It is generally a good idea to state on the website that submitting a case evaluation form does not create an attorney-client relationship.
According to Rule 7.1 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney's website cannot contain any statements or claims that are false, deceptive or misleading or that violate any Rule.
Statements about the level or quality of services provided should be factually supported by the lawyer or law firm as of the date on which the advertisement is published or disseminated.
Rule 7.4(a) of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct states that an attorney is prevented from using the terms "recognized," "certified" or "specialist," unless the following exists:
A lawyer who is certified as a specialist in a particular area of law or practice by a private organization approved for that purpose by the American Bar Association may state the fact of certification if, in conjunction therewith, the certifying organization is identified and the following statement is prominently made:
The meta-tags or other hidden computer codes on a New York attorney's website must follow the same rules that would apply if the hidden computer codes were displayed to the viewer by looking at the website.
According to the comments to Rule 7.1, this means the attorney must not use false or misleading information or any other information that uses the term "specialist."
Many attorneys in New York include testimonials from former clients on their website. However, according to Rule 7.1(e), the testimonial cannot be false or misleading, the information must be able to be factually verifiable, and it must include a disclaimer.
Additionally, if the legal matter is still pending, the client must provide the attorney with informed consent that is given in writing to use the testimonial or endorsement.
As a practical matter, the attorney should always get the client's written permission to discuss their case result on the website before doing so.
Under Rule 7.4, an advertisement that otherwise complies with the Rules may include a paid endorsement of or testimonial about a lawyer or law firm but only if:
The bar rules should be taken into consideration when selecting the domain name of the law firm's website. In New York, a lawyer or law firm may use a domain name for an internet web site that does not include the name of the lawyer or law firm, provide that:
New York Rules of Professional Conduct- Read the New York Rules of Professional Conduct including the rules that regulate attorney website advertisement and marketing. These Rules supersede the former Lawyers Code of Professional Responsibility. New York State Unified Court System, Part 1200 Rules of Professional Conduct [Title 22 [Judiciary]; Subtitle B Courts; Chapter IV Supreme Court; Subchapter E All Departments; Part 1200 Rules of Professional Conduct; Section 1200.0 Rules of Professional Conduct]. The rules took effect on April 1, 2009, as amended and with commentary through June 1, 2018. Visit the website of the New York State Bar Association's (NYSBA) to find information important to attorneys in New York, including the New York Rules of Professional Conduct, ethics opinions, and miscellaneous information pertaining to the legal practice in New York. The New York State Bar Association is located at:
One Elk Street
Albany, New York 12207
Phone: (518) 463-3200
New York State Bar Association's Ethics Opinions - Read the various opinions on ethical issues in the legal profession in New York as provided by the NYSBA Committee on Professional Ethics.
Frequently Asked Questions about Attorney Advertising in New York - Read more about the rules governing attorney advertisements and solicitations under New York's Rules of Professional Conduct. Read summaries of Rule 7.1, Rule 7.3, Rule 7.4 and Rule 7.5. Find definitions comparing and contrasting the terms of advertisements and solicitations.
Court of Appeals - State of New York - Visit the website of the Court of Appeals, New York's highest state court. Find information on court decisions on various legal matters, rules of law in New York, and frequently asked questions regarding the legal practice in New York. The Court of Appeals for the State of New York is located at:
New York State Court of Appeals
20 East Street
Albany, New York 12207
Phone: (518) 455-7700
This article was last updated on Friday, January 17, 2020.