Are you an attorney in New York who wants to advertise or market your firm without risking your legal license? We’re here to help.
Read on to get an up-to-date summary of the rules that attorneys need to know when it comes to marketing your firm.
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What rules govern advertisements and the like in the state of New York?
The first may seem obvious, but it needs to be said: all advertisements must be true. Legal ads cannot mislead or deceive potential clients. The same is true for solicitations, which are in-person communications. This can mean letterhead on documents, signs, or anything else consumers can see. Solicitations are subject to strict record keeping.
According to New York Attorney Advertising Rules, an advertisement is a communication about the services a law firm offers to help them retain clients. A solicitation, on the other hand, is aimed at a target audience and the goal is retention.
You may wonder if you are able to send written communications like articles, speeches, or updates on the law firm. They are not considered advertisements, so this is permissible. A lawyer or lawyers may compose and publish or send speeches, articles, and updates on legal topics that may be of interest to current or past clientele so long as they do not offer legal advice to individuals in such publications. Written articles, speeches, and updates may be ethically used to obtain more business. Namely, publications are a great way to remind clients to keep you in mind for their legal needs.
Attorneys may also send publications to prospective clients if they are attempting to retain clients. If the article, speech, or update is meant to go to a specific group of people, the rules of solicitations must be followed.
Advertisements, under New York Bar Guidelines, must follow certain rules. All ads must contain the following: the name of the law firm, the main firm’s address, and the main telephone number or contact information of a lawyer there. If the firm is sending out emails, they must use the phrase “Attorney Advertising” as the subject line. Unless the ad is on the radio, a billboard, on television, in a newspaper, made in person, or in a magazine, “Attorney Advertising” must be used. For example, it must appear on the homepage of a law firm’s website or any mail to be sent out to prospective and existing clients.
Just as there are things an attorney can advertise, there are things advertisements cannot include:
• A testimonial from a client whose case is pending.
• A paid endorsement from a client that does not disclose they were compensated.
• A portrayal of a fictitious law firm or a fake law firm name.
• Names of lawyers who do not work at the firm.
• The use of actors to play lawyers without disclosing the people are actors.
• Documents made to look like real documents.
• The use of hidden computer codes.
The penalties for violating the Code of Professional Conduct can be suspension or even disbarment.
Rules of Professional Conduct in New York
A brief summary of the rules attorneys in New York must follow:
• A lawyer should always maintain the integrity set forth by the legal profession.
• An attorney should fulfill the legal profession’s duty to remain available as legal counsel for all prospective and existing clientele.
• A lawyer should help to ensure law is practiced ethically.
• An attorney should preserve the confidence between themselves and the client as mandated by attorney/client privilege.
• A lawyer should exercise good, professional judgment for the client.
• An attorney should represent any and all clients competently and to the best of their ability.
• A lawyer should do everything in their power within the bounds of the law to represent their client.
• An attorney should help improve the legal system.
• Lawyers must avoid professional impropriety.