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Attorney Advertising Rules in California

Advertising is an important part of gaining new business for any law firm, big or small. Effective ads across various platforms can persuade potential clients that a particular firm is better than the competition, thus increasing business profitability.

While attorneys may truthfully advertise legal services, these efforts are subject to California Rule of Professional Conduct 1-400. Whether you decide to utilize social media, newspaper ads, or radio placements, it’s crucial to comply with these standards.

California Attorney Advertising Rules

Materials posted by an attorney are subject to professional responsibility rules governing attorney advertising if that material constitutes a “communication” within meaning of rule 1-400. Business and Professions Code section 6157(c) defines “advertise” or “advertisement” as:

Any “communication”, disseminated by television or radio, by any print medium, including, but not limited to, newspapers and billboards, or by means of a mailing directed generally to members of the public and not a specific person, that solicits employment of legal services provided by a member, and is directed to the public and is paid for by, or on the behalf of, an attorney.

These 15 enumerated Standards also sets forth guidelines regarding communication that are presumed to be in violation of rule 1-400, including:

  • A “communication” which contains guarantees, warranties, or predictions regarding the result of the representation.
  • A “communication” which is transmitted at the scene of an accident or at or en route to a hospital, emergency care center, or other health care facility.
  • A “communication” which contains a dramatization unless such communication contains a disclaimer which states, “this is a dramatization” or words of similar import.
  • A “communication,” except professional announcements, seeking professional employment for pecuniary gain, which is transmitted by mail or equivalent means, which does not bear the word “Advertisement, “Newsletter”, or words of similar import in 12 point print on the first page. If such communication, including firm brochures, newsletters, recent legal development advisories, and similar materials, is transmitted in an envelope, the envelope shall bear the word “Advertisement,” “Newsletter” or words of similar import on the outside thereof.

While these rules and standards do not specifically mention Internet advertising, the same rules and regulations that govern print advertising also govern text and graphics that are posted online.

Legal firms may post information about their practice on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels, but they must also be sure to follow the relevant attorney advertising rules in California.

Here are additional resources related to California Bar Rules regarding advertising: