Any attorney who desires to launch a new website or begin online marketing must consult with the Washington Bar Rules regarding advertising online. The Washington Bar has set forth rules to ensure that all lawyers are fair and honest in their advertising. Additionally, it keeps attorneys ethical towards clients and each other. If an firm does not follow these regulations, they may subject to certain disciplinary sanctions or actions.
The Internet is a strong tool for marketing. Which is why it's encouraged that you do use it despite the restrictive nature of the Washington Bar Rules. Using search engine key terms, learning search engine algorithims, and maintaining active relevant social media can boost your website.
Rule 7.2 on Advertising for Attorneys in Washington - Visit the website for the Washington Courts to find the RPC Rule 7.2 on Advertising, amended effective September 1, 2006, and the official comments to the rule.
Booklet for the Unofficial Washington Rules of Professional Conduct - Visit the website for the Washington State Bar Association to find the rules of professional conduct for attorneys in the State of Washington as amended through January 1, 2014. The booklet contains the Title 7 rules for Information About Legal Services including Rule 7.1 for Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services, Rule 7.2 for Advertising, Rule 7.3 for Direct Contact With Prospective Clients, Rule 7.4 for Communication of Fields of Practice and Specialization, and Rule 7.5 for Firm Names and Letterheads.
Washington State Bar Association - Find resources for attorneys on professional responsibility including an ethics advisory opinion search and information on the ethics line. The Washington State Bar Association is located at:
Washington State Bar Association
1325 Fourth Ave., Ste. 600
Seattle, Washington 98101
Phone: (206) 443-9722
Washington Bar Rules Information Center
The Washington Rules of Professional Conduct regulate all communications and advertisements made by attorneys and law firms, including websites and communications made over the internet. Rule 7.2 states an attorney may advertise their services through written, recorded or electronic communications, including public media.
The Comments to Rule 7.2 state that the use of electronic media and the internet are an important source of information about the attorney's legal services, and lawful electronic communication is permitted under Rule 7.2.
Rule 7.2 also states any advertising communications made by an attorney or law firm, including websites must include the name and office address of at least one attorney that is responsible for the content on the communication or it must include the name of the law firm with the office address.
As stated in Rule 7.1, an attorney is not allowed to make false or misleading communication about the attorney or the services they provide. A communication can be false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of law or fact. Additionally, a communications is considered false or misleading if it omits a fact that is necessary to make a statement not materially misleading when taken as a whole.
Additionally, the Comments to Rule 7.1 state misleading truthful statements are also prohibited. A truthful statement can be misleading if it omits certain information or facts that make the statement materially misleading as a whole. Additionally, a truthful statement can be misleading if there is a substantial likelihood the statement will create an unfounded, specific conclusion about the lawyer or the lawyer's services to a reasonable person.
The Comments also claim an advertisement that truthfully provides the results of a client or former client may be misleading if it leads a reasonable person to create an unjustified expectation that the same results will be obtained in a similar case.
According the Comments, comparisons of the attorney's services or fees to that of another attorney may be misleading if they are not proven, but presented in a way that the comparison would appear to be factually substantiated.
Under the Comments to Rule 7.1 of the Washington Rules of Professional Conduct, a disclaimer or qualifying language may help prevent a statement from being considered false or misleading.
An appropriate disclaimer should appear in the same manner, with the same legibility and with equal prominence as other content on the attorney's website. A disclaimer should also be worded so as not to mislead viewers of the website and to prevent potential clients from creating an unjustified expectation as to the attorney's services.
According to 7.4, an attorney may make a statement on their website as to whether they practice in a particular field of law or not. However, this rule prohibits an attorney from stating or implying they are a specialist in a particular legal field, certified or an expert, except if:
Rule 7.4 also states an attorney admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office may use certain designation such as, "Patent Attorney." Additionally, a lawyer engaged in Admiralty practice may use the designation, "Admiralty," or a substantially similar designation.
This article was last updated on October 11, 2018.