All attorneys are subject to strict rules when it comes to communication with prospective clients and advertising. If you’re in the process of developing a new website for your law practice or outsourcing the project to a web designer, it’s absolutely essential that you take the 5 actions outlined below to make sure you’re in compliance with all state bar requirements.
- Read through the Rules of Professional Conduct for the state in which you will be actively practicing. If your office has multiple locations in different states, review the rules for all states to ensure compliance. These rules can be found by visiting your state bar’s website.
- Do your research and review all ethics opinions and Supreme Court decisions which pertain to attorney advertising and provide clarification on the Rules of Professional Conduct. These usually can also be found through your state bar’s website.
- Determine whether or not you need approval from your state’s rule-making body before going live with your firm’s website. A handful of state bars require you to submit a copy of this form of advertising before it is made available to the public. If you don’t submit the site for review and it is found to violate professional rules, you may face disciplinary action.
- All states require you to maintain a copy of all advertising materials for a set length of time following publication. With a dynamic website that is subject to frequent change, this can be a bit challenging. Before you publish your website, make sure that you have a strategy in place where each page, and every change going forward, is recorded and stored for safe keeping should you have to present it to the bar down the road.
- Consult an expert. It may be tempting to save a few dollars and outsource your website project to a younger cousin majoring in graphic design but there is absolutely no substitute for experience when it comes to dealing with the strict requirements of legal marketing. In the Matter of Ty Hyderally, the Supreme Court of New Jersey tackled this very matter and is a good example of why you should consult a seasoned professional experienced in working with law firms. At the end of the day, regardless of who designed your site, you’re fully responsible for all material published by your firm. When you outsource your website development to a developer with limited knowledge of ethics and professional requirements, you’re taking a big gamble with your reputation and your law license.