AMENDMENTS TO LAWYER ADVERTISING RULES
On November 9, 2017, the Supreme Court of Florida entered an order amending the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar in In re Amendments to Rules Regulating Florida Bar (Biennial Petition), No. SC16-1961, 42 Fla. L. Weekly S903, (Fla. Nov. 9, 2017). Among the changes were amendments to Rule 4-7.18 regarding what constitutes direct, in person solicitation and requirements for direct mail advertisements.
LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICE RULE
On May 3, 2017, the Supreme Court of Florida entered an order dismissing the bar’s petition to amend Rule 4-7.22 on lawyer referral services without prejudice so that the Court may “engage in informed discussions with the Bar and those who are in favor or against the proposed regulation of matching and other similar services.” Case No. SC16-1470. In re: Amendments to the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar – Subchapter 4-7 (Lawyer Referral Services). For more information on the LRS amendments, please visit the bar’s dedicated page.
BOARD OF GOVERNORS POLICY ON REVIEW OF ADVERTISING FILING
On March 28, 2014, the Board of Governors adopted a new policy interpreting Rule 4-7.19 regarding filing and review of lawyer advertisements. The new policy will go into effect on July 1, 2014. The policy is as follows:
The Board of Governors also directed staff to monitor cost of program administration compared with fees and report to the Board of Governors whether a reduction in filing fees is warranted.
Proposed Advisory Advertising Opinion
Florida Advisory Advertising Opinion A-00-1 Modified by the Board of Governors
The Board of Governors modified Florida Advisory Advertising Opinion A-00-1 at its January 29, 2016 meeting. The opinion as modified concludes that a lawyer may solicit prospective clients through Internet chat rooms, defined as real time communications between computer users, only if the lawyer complies with the rules on direct written communications and files any unsolicited communications with The Florida Bar for review. Lawyers may respond to specific questions posed to them in chat rooms. Lawyers should be cautious not to inadvertently form attorney-client relationships with computer users.
Proposed Advisory Opinion A-12-1 Withdrawn by Board of Governors
On December 13, 2013, the Board of Governors voted to withdraw Proposed Advisory Opinion A-12-1, which concluded that lawyers may not use techniques such as meta tags and hidden text on their websites in a deceptive manner, such as: “use another lawyer’s or law firm’s name without a proper purpose, a false representation that a law firm has an office in a particular location when the lawyer does not have an office at that location or representing that a lawyer handles cases in an area of practice that the lawyer or firm does not practice.” The opinion also concludes that a lawyer may not purchase another lawyer’s name as an ad word. The Board of Governors determined that the proposed advisory opinion should be withdrawn because the BRC is of the opinion that the purchase of ad words is permissible as long as the resulting sponsored links clearly are advertising based on their placement and wording, and because meta tags and hidden text are outdated forms of web optimization that are penalized by search engines and can be dealt with via existing rules prohibiting misleading forms of advertising.
The Handbook on Lawyer Advertising & Solicitation is an annual publication by the Standing Committee on Advertising. This handy reference gives general information on lawyer advertising, how to file advertisements with The Florida Bar, current rules regarding advertising and sample ads for reference. The handbook was updated 7/29/16 and includes the most recent amendments to the lawyer advertising rules. To obtain the full handbook, please download both the handbook (850 KB) and the sample advertisements (2.2 MB).
To assist Florida Bar members in filing their advertisements for review, staff of the Ethics and Advertising Department created cover sheets for your use that address many of the common omissions and questions in filing advertisements. You are not required to file the cover sheet with your advertisement. If you choose to use the cover sheet, we hope it will help expedite the review process. For information on which advertisements are required to be filed for review, please see Attorney Advertising Filing Requirements above. For your convenience, these forms are available in 2 formats: one you can print and fill out, the other you can fill in and save the completed form in your own system.
Florida Bar Procedures for Issuing Advisory Opinions Relating to Lawyer Advertising or Solicitation (Revised by the Board of Governors on July 29, 2016)
Ethics Opinions on Advertising and Solicitation
Standards for Lawyer Sanctions in Advertising and Solicitation Rule Violations
Forms for filing initial quarterly reports for for-profit lawyer referral services are available below. Please see Rule 4-7.22, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, to review the requirements for these referral services.