Location of Practice – Rule 4-7.12(a)(2)
All forms of lawyer advertising must disclose the city, town or county of one or more bona fide office locations of the lawyer or lawyers who will perform the services advertised. The geographic location disclosure must be clear and conspicuous. The Florida Bar Standing Committee on Advertising (SCA) has found that an advertisement is misleading if it lists law firm offices in several cities when, in fact, there are no bona fide firm offices in those cities.
The comment to Rule 4-7.12 defines “bona fide office” as “a physical location maintained by the lawyer or law firm where the lawyer or law firm reasonably expects to furnish legal services in a substantial way on a regular and continuing basis.” The commentary also states that “An office in which there is little or no full-time staff, the lawyer is not present on a regular and continuing basis, and where a substantial portion of the necessary legal services will not be provided, is not a bona fide office for purposes of this rule.” The SCA has developed the following criteria for determining whether an advertised location is a bona fide office:
- Does the office have the firm’s name on an outside office sign or on the building’s directory?
- Is the advertised location staffed by law firm employees who answer phone calls at that location from prospective clients?
- Is the advertised location staffed by receptionists, secretaries, clerks, or paralegals employed by the firm on a full-time basis?
- Other than client interviews and conferences, do firm lawyers furnish legal services from the advertised location?
- Is the advertised location staffed by at least one firm lawyer on a regular and continuing basis?
Even though a lawyer may not advertise an office location that is not a bona fide office, the lawyer may advertise that the lawyer is “available for consultation” or “available by appointment” at a specified location. These designations are appropriate when the space is a “virtual office” that is owned or under the control of another, is shared with multiple lawyers or other professionals, or is a conference room or other space rented by the hour. A lawyer may identify other office locations as “limited service” or “satellite” offices only if the advertised office location is controlled exclusively by the lawyer’s law firm.