New York Bar Rules for Attorney Advertising
Before you redesign your law firm's website or start a new internet marketing campaign, call us to discuss your goals, it's important that you pay attention to the New York Rules of Professional Conduct related to internet marketing and website design. The rules set forth by the New York State Bar are related to advertising can be found at Rule 7.1 through Rule 7.5. These rules have some similarities with the Model Rules from the American Bar Association.
The first step to understanding the applicable bar rules for attorney advertising requires reading each rule in its entirety. Additional information can be found in the comments and the Ethics Advisory Opinions interpreting the 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. Using social media, search engine terms, and lawyer referral services can hlep you boost your online presence.
Resources for Rules of Professional Conduct in New York
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].
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 BYSBA 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 advertisements and solicitations.
New York State Bar Association - This link is to the New York State Bar Association's (NYSBA) website, which provides information pertaining to the NYSBA and 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
Court of Appeals - State of New York - This link is to the Court of Appeals, which is New York's highest state court. This link provides information to 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
- Advertising Under the New York Bar Rules
- General Guidelines for New York Law Firm Websites
- Prohibited Information on New York Attorney Websites
- Testimonials on New York Lawyer Websites
Advertising Under the New York Bar Rules
Rule 7.1 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct governs attorney and law firm advertisements, including computer-accessed communications, such as content published on the internet and websites that advertise or market the law firm's or lawyer's services.
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:
- Chat rooms;
- List servers;
- Instant messaging;
- Banner advertisements;
- Pop-up advertisements;
- Pop-under advertisements;
- Search engines; and
- Any other internet-related presence.
A New York lawyer or law firm is required to pre-approve any advertisement, including websites, and they 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).
General Guidelines for New York Law Firm Websites
Under Rule 7.1(h), at least one attorney or law firm's name, telephone number and location of the principal law office is required on all advertisements, including websites. 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.
Additionally, according to Rule 7.1(f), the home page of the attorney's website that is used to advertise or market the services of the attorney shall be labeled with the phrase, "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.
Prohibited Information on New York Attorney Websites
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:
- The lawyer is certified as a specialist in a certain area of law by a private organization approved by the American Bar Association, the organization is identified, and a specified statement is included; or
- The lawyer is certified as a specialist in a certain area of law by an authority having jurisdiction over specialization under the laws of another state or territory, the certifying state or authority is identified, and a specified statement is included.
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."
Testimonials on New York Lawyer Websites
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 that says "Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome."
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.
This article was last updated on Wednesday, October 10, 2018.