Texas Bar Rules for Attorney Advertising
Before you redesign your law firm's website or start a new internet marketing campaign, it's important to pay attention to the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct related to internet marketing. These rules set forth by the Texas Bar outline the regulations applicable to attorney advertising. If an attorney does not uphold these rules, he or she may face disciplinary actions.
The rules for advertising in the Texas Bar Rules may seem restrictive. However it's important that you stay in full compliance, but you can still have a extremely effective internet marketing campaign. Understanding the logistics of search engines, lawyer directories, key terms, and other relevant Internet logistics may help you boost your website.
Texas Bar Rule Resources
Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (TDRPC) - This link is to a PDF file of the general rules of professional conduct and ethics all licensed Texas lawyers must abide by. The State Bar of Texas can be contacted at:
1414 Colorado St.
Austin, TX 78701
Texas Bar Advertising Review - Find the advertising review rules and submission requirements in Texas. The Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (TDRPC) states Texas lawyer solicitation communications and advertisements must be reviewed by the Advertising Review Department. Read the specific Advertising Review Rules, Interpretive Comments and Opinions.
Required Attorney Advertisement Submissions - Find information on what Texas attorney advertisements must be submitted for review.
Texas Bar Rules for Websites, Banner Ads and Web-Based Directories - Review the PDF file of every requirement Texas lawyers must follow for computer-accessed communications, including computer communications, websites, blogs, social media and attorney directory organizations.
Interpretive Comments on Internet Advertising - Read the interpretive comments by the State Bar of Texas on Texas lawyer internet advertising. These comments are not rules, but are intended to assist in the interpretation of the TDRPC.
Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism - This non-profit organization provides information and resources on legal ethics and professionalism in Texas, including opinions from the Supreme Court Opinions of the Ethics Committee and the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure.
Texas Bar Rules Information Center
- Texas Bar Rules Guidelines
- Filing Requirements for Texas Law Firm Websites
- Prohibited Language on Texas Legal Websites
- Texas Law Firm Website Disclaimers
- False and Misleading Information on Texas Websites
Texas Bar Rules Guidelines
The Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct govern attorney and law firm content published on the internet and attorney or law firm advertising or marketing websites. These rules state general requirements all lawyers and law firms must abide by, many of which are explained in greater details below.
In general, TDRPC 7.04(b)(1) requires at least one attorney's name to be published or broadcasted who is responsible for the content on the website. This does not mean the attorney must write the content, but they must state their name and that they are responsible for the content. This statement must be displayed conspicuously and in a language that is understandable to an ordinary consumer.
Additionally, under TDRCP 7.04(j), a website advertising an attorney's services must disclose the city or town where the lawyer's or firm's principal office is located. The attorney cannot advertise any other office besides the principal office, unless the other office is staffed by an attorney at least three days per week; or the website states the days and times the lawyer will be present in the office or that meetings are by appointment only.
Filing Requirements for Texas Law Firm Websites
Under the TDRCP, the homepage of an attorney's or law firm's website in Texas is subject to a strict filing requirement. This requirement state an attorney must submit to the State Bar of Texas two printed copies of the attorney's homepage, also known as the "initial access page," two copies of the completed application form, and a $75 payment must be submitted.
Failure to file a non-exempt page of the lawyer's website is a violation of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. The Texas Advertising Review Committee can impose a $225 fee and a $75 review fee for an advertisement not properly submitted under the filing requirement. Additionally, the ARC could forward the advertisement to the Texas Bar's Chief Disciplinary Counsel for possible disciplinary action by the Texas Bar. Also, any "substantive" modification, such as a deletion, addition or edit to the website, must be resubmitted with a new application and $75 fee.
The State Bar of Texas Advertising Review Department has stated social media profiles that have limited access, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, do NOT need to be filed for advertising review under most circumstances. Additionally, blogs and stats updates do not need to be filed for advertising review. However, if the social media profile is a landing page available to the general public, it is considered an advertisement that needs to be filed for review.
Prohibited Language on Texas Legal Websites
According to TDRPC 7.04(a), no Texas lawyer is permitted to claim they are a "specialist" in an areas, except in limited circumstances. For example, an attorney who is admitted to practice before the United States Patent Office may use the terms, "Patents," "Patent Attorney" or "Patent Lawyer."
Similarly, Rule 7.04(b)(2) states attorney may not assert on their website they have any special competence, certification or specialization unless it is a truthful statement. This means Texas lawyers may not claim the lawyer or the law firm "specialize" in a certain practice area or is "certified," unless the lawyer or the entire law firm has a Certificate of Special Competence by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in the area advertised.
Texas Law Firm Website Disclaimers
Under Rule 7.04(q) of the TDRPC, every disclaimer or disclosure must be presented with equal prominence, legibility and in the same manner as the content on the website being disclaimed or disclosed so the viewer's expectations are not mislead as to the attorney's skill and the results the attorney can achieve.
False and Misleading Information on Texas Websites
In addition to the preceding rules, a Texas attorney's website must not include information that is false or misleading under Rule 7.04(m) of the TDRPC. False or misleading information includes self-laudatory statements, such as "Best Lawyer," "Most Experienced," "Lowest Legal Fees," "Will Achieve These Results," etc.
False or misleading statements about the attorney, the attorney's results or the law firm's services are not permitted on the website unless the statement can be validated by provable facts.
This article was last updated on October 10, 2018.