Late last month, the South Carolina Supreme Court amended its Rules of Professional Conduct to address several lingering issues related to lawyer advertising. The amended Rules are meant to be consistent with the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. You can read them here. The amendments delete the previous ban on testimonials, eliminate a mandatory solicitation filing requirement and fee, and add requirements for electronic solicitations.
Specifically, advertisements for legal services can now include testimonials IF the ad specifically identifies that the statement is a testimonial, discloses whether or not it was paid for by the lawyer or law firm, and if it was made by an actual client. Most importantly, the ad must “clearly and conspicuously” state that the any result achieved in one case “does not necessarily indicate similar results” in another. Sounds like a really long commercial. Right?
For a full summary of the new rules, check out blogger Greg Forman’s recent post on the subject here. He does a great job of laying it out for us.
In the meantime, here is a brief update on what is happening in other states on similar issues:
Florida - On May 27, 2011, the Florida Bar proposed new rules for attorney advertising which would also allow for the use of some testimonials. See here.
Virginia – Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics has issued proposed amendments to their Rules of Professional Conduct and seeks comments by September 14, 2011. That’s next week! For a summary of those changes, click here.
Michigan – On July 19, 2011, the Michigan Supreme Court rescinded its previous order that amended that state’s Rules of Professional Conduct and proffered these new amendments. They also provide for a comment period which ends November 1, 2011.
Here’s the deal: the rules have not changed THAT much. Things have just been clarified a little and updated to include web advertisements and electronic communication. The same rules of thumb still hold true. If a statement is a lie, or even stretching the truth, you probably shouldn’t put it in an advertisement pushing your legal services. You also shouldn’t make any promises or guarantees. Oh, and keep it classy. Like this.