Which states have the strictest regulations regarding law firms’ content?
We recently saw a post in our Facebook group “Legal Marketing Straight Talk” talking about what not to post on your law firms website and wondered to ourselves…what are the states with the strictest regulations.
You see, when you are responsible for creating and publishing content for a law firm’s website or blog, there are several key factors to keep in mind at all times. As a marketing agency it’s something we take very seriously. Not only do you want your firm’s content to be engaging and informative, you also need to consider search engine optimization (SEO), and abide by any applicable state and federal legal advertising restrictions. Because all states have their own specific regulations that address legal advertising language, this last component can be tricky.
In this post, we will explore the various legal advertising rules and restrictions throughout the United States, as well as the specific states that have the strictest regulations overall. Out of all 50 states, we found that the following had the highest number of legal advertising-related regulations:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Along with nationwide laws that forbid law firms from advertising their services in a false or misleading manner, each of these nine states also has specific restrictions regarding the way they represent things like their legal specializations, contingency fee arrangements, and client testimonials. Below, we take a deep dive into each of these types of restrictions and describe how they could affect your legal marketing content.
Legal specializations and certifications
Each of the top nine strictest states, as well as 29 additional states, have laws that cover the way lawyers advertise their legal certifications or specializations in individual practice areas. In most cases, these states require advertisements to include specific disclaimers or disclosures when attorneys showcase their certifications, specialized practice areas, or other practice limitations.
Many states with certification and specialization disclaimer laws only allow lawyers to call themselves “specialists” if they have been certified as such by a particular organization, such as the Supreme Court or American Bar Association (ABA). In their disclaimers, law firms should clearly state their specialization and identify the certifying organization by name. Every website should have a disclaimer page as part of its sitemap, which is a great place to post this type of disclaimer. In most cases you as an attorney are probably part of a state bars practice group listings. If this is the case, create a link to the page where your name is listed.
Contingency fee arrangements
Only 19 states require law firms to include disclaimers or disclosures when they refer to contingency fee arrangements in their marketing content. This is especially importing for firms engaged in Personal Injury cases. The majority of these states, including California, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Utah, simply require lawyers to disclose the nature of their clients’ liability for any specific costs or expenses. Again, linking to a disclaimer page on your website that outlines this is probably the best way to handle most of this.
In certain states, law firms only have to include fee arrangement disclaimers in specific instances. For example, in Colorado, no disclosures are required if lawyers only state that contingency-fee arrangement plans are available. In New York, law firms are only prohibited from implying that advanced-cost arrangements are somehow unique.
In other states, law firms are subject to even more stringent contingency-fee advertisement restrictions. In Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas, lawyers are required to disclose whether contingency fees will be calculated before or after expenses in addition to disclosing client responsibility for those costs.
In Connecticut, lawyers are prohibited from using different font sizes or types when disclosing client responsibility for costs or expenses. And in Nevada, law firms must disclose clients’ potential responsibility for any costs incurred by opposing parties.
If your firm doesn’t work on a contingency fee basis, you are safe.
Testimonials, comparisons, and endorsements
There are 13 states with regulations regarding law firms’ ability to use client testimonials, endorsements, spokespersons, or comparisons of their services to those of other firms. Most of these regulations, such as those in Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, require law firms to provide specific disclosures or disclaimers when they use statements from paid spokespersons, feature non-attorney spokespersons, or use non-client endorsements in their advertisements.
Similarly, Florida, South Carolina, New York, and South Dakota all require lawyers to include disclaimers to prospective clients explaining that past results are no guarantee of future outcomes. If you aren’t located in one of these states, we still think it is a good idea to provide this disclaimer anyway. In New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, and South Dakota, law firms must be able to factually substantiate any claims they advertise in testimonials or endorsements. And specifically in New Jersey and North Dakota, any comparisons made to other law firms must include the actual name of the organization being compared in legal advertisements.
Let Precision Legal Marketing handle all your marketing needs
We are keenly aware of the advertising rules that our clients are required to follow, and we’ll ensure that all of our efforts are compliant at all times. Compliance is a big deal and can be ever changing.
When you contact our dedicated team at Precision Legal Marketing, we’ll evaluate your past and present web content, your SEO presence, and much more. From there, we’ll work with you to develop a content plan that works within your budget and drives real results. Call us now at (877) 602-7510 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started on your path to success.