If you are an Wisconsin attorney wishing to promote yourself, you must thoroughly understand the Wisconsin Bar Rules concerning online advertising. Before you redesign your law firm's website or start a new internet marketing campaign, you must study the standard regulations set forth by the Bar. Any attorney or firm that doesn't uphold these rules may face disciplinary sanctions.
The first step to marketing on the Internet is reading all of the applicable bar rules for attorney advertising. Additional information can be found in the comments to each rule and the advisory ethics opinions interpreting the rules.
The main rules for attorney advertising in Wisconson can be found in the Rules of Professional Conduct including the section on "information about legal services." Those rules include;
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Ethics: Rules for Marketing with Social Media - Read an article on the Wisconsin Lawyer, The Official Publication of the State Bar of Wisconsin. The article explains the applicable bar rules, SCR 20:7.1 and SCR 20:7.3., that apply to creating a business page on Facebook or another social media profile such as LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter for an attorney or law firm.
Wisconsin Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys - Visit the website for the Wisconsin Court System to find an index of all of the SCR Chapter 20 rules, including the rules for Information about Legal Services. Find 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 Rule 7.5 for Firm names and letterheads.
SCR 20:7.1. Communications concerning a lawyer's services of the Wisconsin Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys became effective on July 1, 2007. The rule provides:
A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services. A communication is false or misleading if it:
(a) contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading;
(b) is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law; or
(c) compares the lawyer's services with other lawyers' services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated; or
(d) contains any paid testimonial about, or paid endorsement of, the lawyer without identifying the fact that payment has been made or, if the testimonial or endorsement is not made by an actual client, without identifying that fact.
SCR 20:7.2 Advertising
(a) Subject to the requirements of SCR 20:7.1 and SCR 20:7.3, a lawyer may advertise services through written, recorded or electronic communication, including public media.
(b) A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer's services, except that a lawyer may:
(1) pay the reasonable cost of advertisements or communications permitted by this rule;
(2) pay the usual charges of a legal service plan or a not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service. A qualified lawyer referral service is a lawyer referral service that has been approved by an appropriate regulatory authority;
(3) pay for a law practice in accordance with SCR 20:1.17; and
(4) refer clients to another lawyer or nonlawyer professional pursuant to an agreement not otherwise prohibited under these rules that provides for the other person to refer clients or customers to the lawyer, if
(i) the reciprocal referral arrangement is not exclusive;
(ii) the client gives informed consent;
(iii) there is no interference with the lawyer's independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and
(iv) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by SCR 20:1.6.
(c) Any communication made pursuant to this rule shall include the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content.
SCR 20:7.4 Communication of fields of practice
(a) A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law.
(b) A lawyer admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office may use the designation "patent attorney" or a substantially similar designation.
(c) A lawyer engaged in admiralty practice may use the designation "admiralty," "proctor in admiralty" or a substantially similar designation.
(d) A lawyer shall not state or imply that a lawyer is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law, unless:
(1) the lawyer has been certified as a specialist by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate state authority or that has been accredited by the American Bar Association; and
(2) the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication.
SCR 20:7.5 Firm names and letterheads
(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates SCR 20:7.1. A trade name may be used by a lawyer in private practice if it does not imply a connection with a government agency or with a public or charitable legal services organization and is not otherwise in violation of SCR 20:7.1.
(b) A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name or other professional designation in each jurisdiction, but identification of the lawyers in an office of the firm shall indicate the jurisdictional limitations on those not licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the office is located.
(c) The name of a lawyer holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.
(d) Lawyers may state or imply that they practice in a partnership or other organization only when that is the fact.
This article was last updated on October 10, 2018.