The Florida Bar
  1. Home
  2. Ethics
  3. Advertising Regulation and Information
  4. Advertising Rules: Frequently Asked Questions

Advertising Rules: Frequently Asked Questions

General

What information must I include in my advertisement?

All lawyer advertisements must contain the name of at least 1 lawyer or the law firm, and all advertisements for qualifying providers (lawyer referral services, matching services, group or pooled advertising programs, directories, or tips or leads generators) must contain the name of the qualifying provider.  Rule 4-7.12(a)(1).

All advertisements must give at least one bona fide office location by city, town, or county of the lawyer who will perform the legal services advertised.  Rule 4-7.12(a)(2).

The above are the minimum requirements for advertisements.  Other requirements may apply depending on the content of your advertisement.  For example, if you intend to refer the case out, this must be stated in the advertisement.  Rule 4-7.12(b).  As another example, if your advertisement discusses your fee, there must also be a statement of whether the client is responsible for any additional costs.  Rule 4-7.14(a)(5).  These are just two examples.  You should look to the content of each particular advertisement and the applicable rules for the requirements for that particular advertisement.

I’m not Board Certified. Can I include my areas of practice in my ad?

Yes, you can always include your areas of practice as long as they are areas in which you actually practice.  Rules 4-7.16(a)(6) and 4-7.13(b)(4).  You can also state that you limit your practice to one or more areas of law.  4-7.14(a)(4).  However, if you are not board certified in a particular area of law, you cannot state that you are board certified in that area of law.  Rule 4-7.14(a)(4).  You must be able to objectively verify any claims that you specialize, are an expert, or variations of those terms, in an area of law.

Do I still need to include the disclaimer language about the hiring of a lawyer is an important decision . . . ?

No, the hiring disclosure, “The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements . . .” is no longer required by the lawyer advertising rules although you may continue to use it if you wish.  In re: Amendments to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, 971 So. 2d 763 (Fla. 2007).

What information is subject to the language requirements of Rule 4-7.12(c) and legibility requirements of Rule 4-7.12(d)?

Any information or disclosures required under Subchapter 4-7 must appear in the same language in which the advertisement appears.  Rule 4-7.12(c).  If an advertisement uses more than one language, the required information or other disclosure must appear in each language used in the advertisement.  Id.  However, the Standing Committee on Advertising has determined that if the only information in a different language is a statement saying only that you speak a foreign language, such as “se habla Español,” the requirement to have all required information in each language used is not triggered.

Any information required by the lawyer advertising rules to be in an advertisement must be reasonably prominent and clearly legible when appearing in writing and must be intelligible if spoken.  Rule 4-7.12(d).  For purposes of these rules, “reasonably prominent” as applied to disclaimers and other required information means clear and conspicuous compared to the prominence of other information contained in the advertisement, or in the case of a required disclaimer, with reasonable prominence compared to the information the disclaimer qualifies.  In text, reasonable prominence does not necessarily mean that the required information must be the same size as the largest text used in the advertisement, or the same size as the text a required disclaimer qualifies.  However, required information, may need to be printed in a different color or some other means used to make the required information have reasonable prominence as compared to other information in the advertisement.  Required information, including a required disclaimer, may not appear in fine print, nor may it be buried in a footnote.  In a television advertisement where required information appears as on-screen text, required information must appear in sufficient size and for a sufficient amount of time to be clear and conspicuous.  If a disclaimer is required in a television advertisement, it must be on-screen at the same time and for a reasonable amount of time as compared to the information the disclaimer qualifies.  In an advertisement where required information is spoken, required information must be clearly audible and at a comparable volume and speed as other statements in the advertisement to be considered reasonably prominent as required by the rule.  If a disclaimer is required, the disclaimer must be spoken reasonably close to the information requiring the disclaimer.  Required information, including required disclaimers, is not reasonably prominent if a reasonable consumer would likely not notice the required information or would likely not connect the required disclaimer to the information that disclaimer qualifies.  Examples of required language include the following:

All Advertisements:

Rule 4-7.12(a)(1)         Name must appear in advertisement

Rule 4-7.12(a)(2)         Geographic disclosure

Rule 4-7.12(b)             If the case is to be referred to another lawyer, statement notifying the prospective client must appear in advertisement

4-7.13(b)(5)                 disclaimer that not employee

4-7.13(b)(6)                 dramatization disclaimer

4-7.13(b)(8)                 testimonial disclaimer

Rule 4-7.14(a)(5)         Cost disclosure

Rule 4-7.14(a)(4)        Name of certifying organization of board certification if from an organization other than The Florida Bar, and, if the organization is not another state bar, the statement “Not Certified as a Specialist by The Florida Bar.”

Rule 4-7.14(a)(5)        Time price honored, if the advertisement lists a price that is valid for a period of less than 90 days (Note: Prices listed in yellow page advertisements and any other advertisement used in a media that is published only once a year must be honored for at least 1 year.)

Additional Requirements for Direct Mail and Email Advertisements:

Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(B)   The word “advertisement” must appear (1) on the outside of direct mail advertisements on the face of the envelope or the address panel of a self-mailer and (2) on each separate enclosure of the advertisement or on the inside of a self-mailing brochure.  The “advertisement” mark must be reasonably prominent and in ink that contrasts with both the background on which it is printed and the other text used in the advertisement.   For email advertisements, the subject line must begin with the word “advertisement.”

Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(C)   Statement of qualifications for a lawyer, law firm, or participating lawyers of a qualifying provider (lawyer referral service, matching service, group or pooled advertising program, directory, or tips or leads generator) are required in all direct mail and email advertisements

Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(E)   Targeted direct mail and email advertisements must include as the first sentence “If you have already retained a lawyer for this matter, please disregard this letter.”

Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(G)   If case is to be referred to another lawyer, direct mail and email advertisements must contain a statement notifying the prospective client of the intended referral

Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(H)   Targeted direct mail and email advertisements must contain a information on how the lawyer obtained the information about the prospective client’s legal matter.

What is the difference between a targeted and a non-targeted direct mail or email ad?

A targeted direct mail advertisement is one that is prompted by a specific occurrence.  For example, sending a direct mail or email advertisement to someone the advertising lawyer knows has been arrested or the advertising lawyer knows that the person’s house is in foreclosure, that is a targeted direct mail advertisement.  On the other hand, direct mail or email advertisements sent out generally, such as bulk mailers to a specific zip code, are non-targeted unless the advertising lawyer knows the recipients have a specific legal problem.

Targeted direct mail and email advertisements have additional requirements that do not apply to non-targeted direct mail advertisements.  The first sentence of a targeted direct mail or email advertisement must be “If you have already retained a lawyer for this matter, please disregard this letter.”  Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(E).  In a targeted direct mail or email advertisement, you must disclose how you obtained the information prompting the advertisement.   Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(H).  Finally, there can be nothing on the outside of a targeted direct mail advertisement that reveals the nature of the client’s legal problem.  Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(I).

I want to send my direct mail advertisement on a post card. Is that OK?

Only if it is not a targeted direct mail advertisement.  A targeted direct mail advertisement cannot reveal the nature of the prospective client’s legal problem on the outside pursuant Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(I).  Based on prior decisions of the Standing Committee on Advertising, a targeted direct mail advertisement cannot be sent as a postcard, because required disclosures (that the person has a matter, how the information about the matter was obtained, and experience in the area of law being advertised) and other information on the postcard reveal the nature of the prospective client’s legal problem to anyone viewing the postcard.  To comply with this rule, the postcard either must be placed in an envelope, or must be converted to a self-mailing, fold-over brochure in which all information disclosing the nature of the legal problem is on the inside of the mailer and the fold over is secured shut.  If the postcard will be enclosed in an envelope, the face of the envelope must be prominently marked “advertisement” in a color that contrasts with both the background and other text used on the envelope in accordance with Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(B).

I’m running an advertisement in another state, not Florida. Do the Florida lawyer advertising rules still apply?

Florida’s lawyer advertising rules do not apply to advertisements aired or disseminated in a jurisdiction other than Florida if the Florida Bar member is admitted in the other jurisdiction, the advertisement complies with the appropriate rules of that jurisdiction, and the advertisement is not intended for use in Florida.

Can a non-Florida lawyer appear in an advertisement in Florida?

Out-of-state lawyers may only advertise to provide legal services in Florida when they are authorized by other law to provide those services in Florida, such as lawyers who are authorized by Federal law to practice before the Immigration & Naturalization Service, before the U.S. Patent Office, before the Internal Revenue Service, and before the Social Security Administration anywhere in the United States.  Out-of-state lawyers may not advertise to provide legal services in Florida for state matters, such as personal injury, probate, traffic, or criminal law.  See Rule 10-2.1(c).  An out-of-state lawyer’s expectation that the lawyer will be admitted pro hac vice in a particular matter does not authorize the out-of-state lawyer to advertise to provide legal services in Florida.  Id.  Out-of-state lawyers should consider contacting The Florida Bar’s Unlicensed Practice of Law Department at (850) 561-5840 to inquire whether or not they are authorized to provide the advertised services.

I want to mail or email an advertisement to other lawyers. Do the lawyer advertising rules apply?

Rule 4-7.18(b)(3) states that communications between lawyers are not subject to Rule 4-7.18(b)(2), which sets forth specific requirements for direct mail or email advertisements.  Additionally, such communications do not have to be filed for review.  Rule 4-7.20(d).

I want to send out a newsletter. What rules apply?

Newsletters sent by mail or email must comply with Rule 4-7.18(b).  Newsletters must also be filed for review in accordance with Rule 4-7.19, unless they are mailed only to other lawyers, current clients, former clients and people who have requested the newsletter.  Rules 4-7.20(d) and (e).  Any subsequent edition of a previously filed newsletter must be filed for review as a new advertisement if it includes any new information about the lawyer or law firm, unless it is information of the type described in Rule 4-7.16 (“Presumptively Valid Content”).  However, if no new information about the lawyer or law firm is added to subsequent editions of a previously filed newsletter, or if the only new information about the lawyer or law firm appearing in subsequent editions is information covered by Rule 4-7.16(a), these subsequent editions need not be filed for review.  See, Florida Advertising Opinion A-99-01 (available on the bar’s website).

What rules apply to seminar announcements?

Seminar announcements generally must comply with the lawyer advertising rules.  Seminar announcements disseminated through the mail or email must comply with Rule 4 7.18(b) governing written communications.  Exceptions may be made, however, if the lawyer has no financial responsibility for the seminar and no control over seminar advertisements.  For example, if a lawyer will appear as a guest speaker at a seminar sponsored and financed by someone else, the advertisement may be exempt from the regulations governing lawyer advertising.  Whether and which rules apply must be decided on a case-by-case basis, according to the Standing Committee on Advertising.

I want to send out professional announcements. What rules apply?

Professional announcements appearing in the public print media must comply with the regulations governing other forms of print advertisement.  Provided they contain no illustrations or information beyond that set forth in Rule 4-7.16, professional announcements appearing in the public print media are exempt from the filing requirement under Rule 4-7.20(a).

If the announcements are to be mailed, Rule 4-7.20(f) makes an exception from the filing requirement for “professional announcement cards stating new or changed associations, new offices, and similar changes relating to a lawyer or law firm and that are mailed only to other lawyers, relatives, close personal friends, and existing or former clients.”  If the announcements are mailed or emailed to prospective clients, professional announcements must comply with the rules governing direct mail and email advertisements, Rule 4-7.18(b).

I want to advertise to referral sources. Do the lawyer advertising rules still apply?

Yes.  Rule 4-7.11(c) states that the lawyer advertising rules apply to communications made to referral sources.

I represent adoptive parents. I want to run an advertisement looking for birth mothers. Do the lawyer advertising rules apply to this ad?

No, if you are placing an advertisement on behalf of existing clients who are seeking a birth mother.  This is because you are not seeking to represent the birth mother.

I want to run an advertisement looking for witnesses to my client’s case. Do the lawyer advertising rules apply to this ad?

No, if you are truly only looking for witnesses on behalf of an existing client and the witnesses are not also potential clients.  If the witnesses are also potential clients and you want to be able to represent them (presuming no conflicts of interest exist), then the lawyer advertising rules apply as you are not solely seeking witnesses.  You are also seeking potential clients.

Internet Advertising:

What rules apply to my website?

Generally, Rules 4-7.11 through 4-7.17 govern the content of your website.  However, your website does not have to be filed for review.  Rule 4-7.20(g).

What rules apply to social media?

It depends.  To the extent you are using your social networking pages solely for social purposes, to maintain social contact with family and close friends, they are not subject to the lawyer advertising rules.  However, if you have social networking pages that you use to promote you or your law firm’s practice, then such pages are subject to the lawyer advertising rules, but the Standing Committee on Advertising has determined that such pages are not required to be filed for review.  You should review the Standing Committee on Advertising’s Guidelines for Social Networking Sites.

What rules apply to YouTube and similar sites?

It depends.  If you post videos on YouTube or other video sharing site that are used solely for purposes that are unrelated to the practice of law, those videos are not subject to the lawyer advertising rules.  On the other hand, videos that are used to promote you or your law firm’s practice are subject to the lawyer advertising rules.  The Standing Committee on Advertising has determined that such videos do not have to be filed for review.  You should review the Standing Committee on Advertising’s Guidelines for Video Sharing Sites.

Filing:

Do I have to file my advertisement for review before I can use it?

Yes, all advertisements must be filed for review at least 20 days before the advertisements are used.  Rule 4-7.19(a).  The only exemption is if your advertisement falls within one of the filing exemptions found in Rule 4-7.20.

What is a “Tombstone” ad?

A “Tombstone” advertisement is an advertisement in the public media that only contains the presumptively valid content found in Rule 4-7.16.  Such advertisements do not have to be filed for review under Rule 4-7.20(a).

For lawyers and law firms, presumptively valid content includes the names of the lawyers, the firm name, contact information, areas of practice, bar memberships, former employment positions as a lawyer, jurisdictions in which the lawyer is admitted, other licenses the lawyer has, military service, foreign language ability, acceptance of credit cards, whether the lawyer belongs to any prepaid or group legal service plans and certain listed illustrations.  You should review Rule 4-7.16(a) for the complete list.

For qualifying providers (lawyer referral services, matching services, group or pooled advertising programs, directories, and tips or leads generators), presumptively valid content includes its name, location, contact info, referral fee charge, hours of operating, how referrals are made, areas of law in which referrals or matches are offered, and the geographic area in which the lawyers practice.  Qualifying providers should look to Rule 4-7.16(b) for the complete list.

Are direct mail or direct email advertisements ever exempt from filing?

No, unless they are sent only to other lawyers, family members, current clients or past clients, and persons who have asked to receive information from the advertising lawyer.  Rule 4-7.20(d) and (e).

For qualifying providers (lawyer referral services, matching services, group or pooled advertising programs, directories, and tips or leads generators), presumptively valid content includes its name, location, contact info, referral fee charge, hours of operating, how referrals are made, areas of law in which referrals or matches are offered, and the geographic area in which the lawyers practice.  Qualifying providers should look to Rule 4-7.16(b) for the complete list.

Do I have to file my website?

No.  Websites are not required to be filed for review under Rule 4-7.20(g).  However, if you have a concern about a certain portion of your website, Rule 4-7.19(d) allows you to file a specific page, provision, statement, illustration or photograph from your website for review.  You have to pay the filing fee and otherwise include all of the information required under Rule 4-7.19(h) to have a complete filing.  You cannot file your entire website for review.  Rule 4-7.19(d).

Do I have to file my Facebook page? What about YouTube, LinkedIn or Similar Sites?

No.  Under the Standing Committee on Advertising Guidelines for Social Networking Sites and the Guidelines for Video Sharing Sites the SCA has concluded that a lawyer does not have to file the lawyer or law firm’s own page on a social media site.  However, you should keep in mind this is for Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and other similar pages/accounts for you or your law firm.  If you post a banner or other advertisement on a social networking site or video sharing site or on a third party’s social networking page, that is an advertisement that is subject to filing under Rule 4-7.20.

How do I file my ad? What do I need to include?

Rule 4-7.19(a) says you must file your advertisement at the Bar’s headquarters in Tallahassee.  To file your advertisement, you need to send it to:

The Florida Bar, Ethics and Advertising Department

651 East Jefferson Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399-2300

 

Rule 4-7.19(h) sets out what you need to include:

  • A copy of the advertisement. You need to send it in the form in which it will be used and that is readily capable of being duplicated by the Bar.  For example, a video of a television commercial on a DVD or flash drive, an audio recording of a radio advertisement, a letter or brochure for a direct mail advertisement or a copy of a print advertisement.
  • A transcript for an advertisement in electronic format, such as TV and radio.
  • A printed copy of all text used in the advertisement, including both spoken and on-screen text. This can be done as part of the transcript for TV and radio advertisements.
  • An accurate English translation, if any part of an advertisement not in English.
  • A sample envelope for advertisements that are to be mailed.
  • A statement listing the media in which the advertisement will appear, the anticipated frequency of use of the advertisement and the anticipated time period that the advertisement will be used.
  • The name of at least one lawyer responsible for the content of the advertisement.

The filing fee.  The filing fee is $150 for advertisements timely filed and $250 for advertisements that are not timely filed.

Must I submit a separate review fee for each advertisement I plan to run, even if the advertisements are all very similar?

Yes, unless the advertisements are identical in content.

Can I file by fax or email?

No.  The review process cannot begin until the Bar receives a check for the entire amount of the filing fee.

How long does the review process take?

Bar staff has 15 days from the day we receive a complete filing to issue an opinion whether an advertisement complies with the rules.  Rule 4-7.19(b).  A complete filing means you have included all of the information required to be included under Rule 4-7.19(h).  If your filing was not complete we still must communicate with you within 15 days of your submission, but the communication will generally be to ask for the missing information or fee.  Rule 4-7.19(b).

Can I get an expedited opinion?

No.  While we appreciate the importance of your advertisement to your business, due to the volume of advertisements submitted, staff cannot promise to have the review process completed sooner than the 15-day time period.  We do try to complete the review process in a timely manner and it does not always take the full 15 days.  Please also note that advertisements must be filed at least 20 days before they are first used.  Rule 4-7.19(a).

If I revise my advertisement, do I have to pay the filing fee again?

No, as long as the only revisions you made were to comply with staff’s notice of noncompliance.  If you make any other change to the advertisement, the submission will be considered a new advertisement and you will have to pay the filing fee.  Any change includes, but is not limited to, any change to wording, illustrations, photographs, typographical marks, layout, or color scheme.

Once my advertisement has been approved, must I resubmit the advertisement if I decide to use the advertisement later in its identical form?

Generally, the answer is no.  If, however, you plan to use the same advertisement in a different medium, you must resubmit the advertisement if the change in medium requires analysis under different rules. For example, you would ordinarily need to resubmit an advertisement originally appearing in a newspaper if you later want to use the same advertisement in a direct mail campaign.  The re-submission is required because direct mail advertisements have to comply with the additional requirements of Rule 4-7.18 while print advertisements do not have to comply with Rule 4-7.18.

Additionally, when the rules are amended by the Florida Supreme Court, changes in the rules may make a previously complying advertisement noncompliant or vice versa.  Therefore, after a rule change you should consider whether the changes affect your advertisement and, if so, resubmit your advertisement.  If you have made no changes to the advertisement, you need not submit a new filing fee.  Rather, you can submit the advertisement under the original file number given it when it was filed the first time.

Can I get a preliminary opinion on my advertisement before I go to the expense of having it produced?

Yes.  To get a preliminary opinion on a radio, TV or other video advertisement, you can submit a transcript, including both all planned spoken and on-screen text, and a description of the visuals and/or background sounds.  To get a preliminary opinion on another kind of advertisement, you can submit a draft of the advertisement.  To get a preliminary opinion on any kind of advertisement, you also must submit the filing fee of $150 required by Rule 4-7.19(h)(8).  Presuming you’ve sent everything needed under Rule 7-1.19(h), you will receive a preliminary opinion on your submission.  However, you still must submit the final version of the advertisement for review at least 20 days before it is first used.  Rule 4-7.19(a) and (c).  Once you submit a final version of the advertisement for review, you will receive a final opinion.  You do not have to pay the filing fee again if you have made no changes to the preliminary advertisement other than the changes necessary to comply with the opinion you receive.

Do I have to file an advertisement going only to other lawyers?

No, such advertisements do not have to be filed under Rule 4-7.20(d).

Do I have to file an advertisement only going to my current and former clients?

No, such advertisements do not have to be filed under Rule 4-7.20(d).

Do I have to file an advertisement going only to prospective clients who have requested information from me?

No, such advertisements do not have to be filed under Rule 4-7.20(e).