Here is a guide on what not to do in legal marketing. In many states, attorneys must follow very strict advertising rules. These rules often require that attorneys not overstate their qualifications or the likelihood of success in the event of litigation. If an attorney claims to be a “specialist” in an area, that attorney has to hold a special certification. If the attorney does not, the attorney may be committing a violation of the state bar’s advertising rules.
While advertisers often use terms like the “best” or “superior”, attorneys must be careful with how they describe themselves. Advertisers in most industries can get away with “puffery,” which is when a company describes itself as the best.
However, lawyers usually cannot use “puffery” because it is likely to influence potential clients or confuse them. In one case, an attorney in North Carolina was reprimanded under the state bar’s legal malpractice rules because she said that she was the “best auto injury attorney“. The state bar held that such a statement was a violation of the state rules of conduct. The attorney compared her services to her competitors when she could not factually substantiate the claim.
In order for a firm to claim it’s the best, it has to be on criteria that can be judged. Perhaps if the attorney never lost a case, she could say that since it is quantifiable. But, by vaguely saying she was the “best,” the bar found the advertisement to be unfair.
“Specialist” in Bar Violations
Many states require attorneys to not state that they are a “specialist” unless they actually hold a certificate. If an attorney does not hold a specialization in a given area of the law, then the attorney cannot indicate as much in any advertisements. If an attorney does have significant experience in a certain area and does “specialize” in it, to use layman terms, the attorney could say something to the effect that he or she has experience in this area or some other description that avoids potential confusion regarding the licenses or certifications that the attorney actually holds.
A “Settlement You Deserve”
Attorneys also must be careful when discussing how often they “win” cases, settle cases with large payouts to clients or other success rates that may influence potential clients. Attorneys must state disclaimers that not all clients will win or that not all will win major monetary payments. Clients should be able to make rational decisions about who they want to represent them in litigation, so attorney advertisements should be as straightforward as possible.
If you have questions about legal malpractice or attorney ethics, contact us at (312) 223-1699.