Legal marketing can be a tricky subject as almost each year there are reforms to state regulations. As online advertising increases, the changes tend to focus on this type of marketing. In the United States certain marketing practices are considered illegal while others may be violations of legal ethics. Directly soliciting clients or “shock” advertising is illegal.

The first case law decision on legal advertising is the Supreme Court ruling in Bates v. Arizona State Bar in 1977. In 2006 and 2007 the New York and Florida court system proposed several restrictions on advertising as well.

Each state has its own set of unique rules, for example, in 9 states attorneys must include a particular disclaimers on all their advertisements.

Florida most recently changed their disclaimer needs for 2014, specifically for websites. Attorneys must disclose all jurisdictions in which the lawyer or members of the firm are licensed to practice law and disclose one or more office locations.

The following is a comprehensive list of legal advertisement laws throughout the United States. Lawyers should consistently check state statutes and with the state bar associations for any changes to legal ethics or advertising rules.

A lawyer shall not state or imply that they are certified as a specialist in a particular field unless they have been certified by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate state authority or accredited by the American Bar Association and the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the advertisement.

According to the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2 no representation may be made that the quality of the legal services performed is greater than quality by other lawyers.

A lawyer may not imply that they are certified as a specialist in a particular field unless they have been certified by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate state authority or accredited by the American Bar Association; the name of the certifying organization must be clearly identified on the communication.

: All advertisements containing information on the lawyer’s fees must explain if the client will be held liable for expenses regardless of the outcome and whether the percentage fee will be computed before expenses are deducted from the recovery.

A communication shall not state that a member is a certified specialist unless the member holds a current certificate as a specialist by the Board of Legal Specialization or any other State Bar accredited entity. The communication must affirm the complete name of the entity that granted the certification. Stating no fee without recovery must also include whether or not the client will be held liable for costs. If stating that an attorney works on a contingency basis, the statement must also advise if the client will be held responsible for any advanced costs when no recovery is obtained. It is also specified that advertisements relating to immigration or naturalization must include a statement that the attorney is an active member of the State Bar and licensed to practice law in California.

A lawyer cannot state or imply that they are a certified specialist in a particular field of law unless they have been certified by an organization approved by the appropriate state authority or accredited by the American Bar Association; the name of the certifying organization must be clearly identified. The following disclaimer must also be included, “Colorado does not certify lawyers as specialists in any field."

Communications that imply that the client does not have to pay a fee must also disclose that the client may be liable for costs; the provision does not apply to communications that discuss contingent or percentage fee arrangements.

Advertisements and written communication that contains information on fees shall disclose if the client will be held responsible for court costs and litigation expenses. The disclosure must be the same print size and type as the information regarding the lawyer’s fees. If broadcast, the disclosure must appear for the same duration as the information regarding fees.

No additional laws.

All websites and homepages shall disclose all jurisdictions in which the lawyer or law firm are licensed to practice law; shall disclose office locations; such information is considered to be information provided upon request. All Florida Bar Certified Lawyers may inform the public of the lawyer’s certified areas of legal practice and identify The Florida Bar as the certifying organization. In regard to lawyer’s fees, every advertisement and unsolicited written communication shall disclose whether the client will be liable for any expenses in addition to their fee.

Disclaimers must be included in advertisements that contain any information regarding contingent fees. If the advertisements contain the language “no fee unless you win or collect”, it should also include a specific disclaimer. The wording on disclaimers may change over time.

An advertisement must not make false or misleading claims about the lawyer or their services including comparing their services with another lawyer or firm unless the comparison can be factually substantiated. Additionally, a lawyer may not communicate that they are certified as a specialist unless it clearly states the name of the certifying organization and is accompanied by the following statement “The Supreme Court of Hawai‘i grants Hawai‘i certification only to lawyers in good standing who have successfully completed a specialty program accredited by the American Bar Association.”

No additional laws.

In advertisements, if a lawyer communicates that they are certified as a specialist they must include the following disclaimer “The Supreme Court of Illinois does not recognize certifications of specialties in the practice of law and that the certificate, award or recognition is not a requirement to practice law in Illinois.”

The lawyer shall not express or imply that their certification has been recognized by the Indiana Supreme Court (CLE) or by an entity other than the independent certifying organization. Additionally, contingent fee rates may be advertised so long as a statement discloses whether percentages are computed before or after the deduction costs.

Fee information may be communicated so long as it is provided in a dignified style, discloses whether percentages are computed before or after deduction of costs, and advises the public that the litigant may be held liable for courts costs and other legal expenses.

No additional laws.

The Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct may require the statement “THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT” in print advertisements and to be spoken in audio advertisements. The information must be in the same color and print size of the lawyer or firm’s name and visually present for as long the lawyer or firm’s name is present in a visual advertisement.

If an advertisement states or indicates that no fees will be charged unless the lawyer recovers compensation, the advertisement must disclose that the client may be held liable other legal expenses.

No additional laws.

If an advertisement states or indicates that no fees will be charged unless the lawyer recovers compensation, the advertisement must disclose that the client may be held liable for other legal expenses such as court costs, fees for gathering evidence and more.

If an advertisement states or indicates that no fees will be charged unless the lawyer recovers compensation, the advertisement must disclose that the client may be held liable for other legal expenses such as court costs, fees for gathering evidence and more.

Lawyers who are certified in a particular area of law must name the certifying organization and state that the organization is "a private organization, whose standards for certification are not regulated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts," – the governmental body the organization is tied to must be named if necessary.

No additional laws noted.

If an attorney is not certified or if the certifying organization is not accredited by the Minnesota Board of Legal Certification, the advertisement must clearly state as such and should appear in the same sentence that communicates the certification.

The following disclaimer must be noted on legal websites “Free Background Information available upon request.” If an attorney is certified in a particular field of law, the certifying organization must be disclosed and the following disclaimer must be included “There is no procedure in Mississippi for approving certifying or designating organizations and authorities." Additionally, should the lawyer be certified by a non-American Bar Association authority, the information must be disclosed and include that that there is no procedure in Mississippi for approving such organizations.

The following disclosure must be noted on websites: "The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements." which may be proceeded with “This disclosure is required by rule of the Supreme Court of Missouri." If a lawyer is a specialist, they must use a disclaimer stating that the Supreme Court of Missouri nor The Missouri Bar reviews or approves certifying organizations or specialist designations. Communications regarding contingency fees must reiterate that the client may be responsible for costs of expenses, if that is the case.

No additional laws noted.

No additional laws noted.

Legal websites must disclaim that “You may have to pay the opposing party’s attorney fees and costs in the event of a loss.” Additionally, if a lawyer is certified as a specialist they may advertise such information so long as the certification and the state bar’s approval of the certifying organization are both in effect. Additionally, the certifying organization’s name must clearly be identified.

No other laws noted.

If a lawyer is certified as a specialist or in a field of practice, they may state such information only when the communication is not false or misleading and the name of the certifying organization is stated. Additionally the communication must state that the certification has been granted by the Supreme Court of New Jersey or by an organization approved by the American Bar Association; if certification was not granted by such an organization, absence or denial of said organization must be communicated. A lawyer may not make false statements or mislead consumers about their services. They also may not compare their services to that of another lawyer’s unless the name of the comparing organization is stated, the basis can be substantiated and the following disclaimer is available “No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey."

Advertisements or solicitations may contain information about fees, but should include whether the percentages are computed before or after deduction of costs and specifically state if the client will be held accountable for expenses incurred regardless of outcome.

In regard to testimonials, there must be a disclaimer that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. “Attorney Advertising” must be noted in self-mailing brochures, postcards and electronic mail. If a lawyer is a certified specialist in a particular area of law and wishes to advertise such information, they must also include disclaimers that the organization is not affiliated with or recognized by any governmental authority in New York and that the certification does not necessarily indicate greater competence.

No additional laws noted.

In regard to specializations, a lawyer must communicate the name of the certifying organization and that there are no procedures in this jurisdiction for approving certifying organizations. However, if the named organization has been accredited by the American Bar Association or if the lawyer completed a program sponsored by the state bar association, such a disclaimer is not needed.

No additional laws noted.

A lawyer certified specialist in a particular field of law may communicate their certification, however, it must be in accordance with all rules and requirements of the state’s licensing authority and communicate that such certification is not recognized by the Supreme Court of State of Oklahoma.

No additional laws noted.

Communications about contingency fees must disclose if the client will be liable for certain expenses, such as court costs.

A lawyer may only specify if they are certified as a specialist if it has been approved by the appropriate estate authority or one that has been accredited by the American Bar Association. The advertisement must clearly state the certifying organization and include a disclaimer that the Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law and does not license or certify any lawyer as an expert or specialist in any particular field. Additionally, the lawyer must state if the client will be responsible for expenses regardless of the case outcome.

Any advertisement containing information about the lawyer’s fees shall disclose if the client will be held accountable for additional expenses and whether or not the fee percentage being charged will be computed before deducting expenses.

A lawyer shall not state or imply that they are specialized unless a disclaimer is included and notes that the certification is granted by an organization approved by the appropriate regulatory authority or that the certification has been granted by an organization that has not been approved, or has been denied approval, from the appropriate regulatory authority. The disclaimer must be on the same page as the advertisement. Information on fees shall also disclose whether percentages are computed before or after the deduction of costs and if the client will be responsible for expenses regardless of outcome.

Lawyers disclosing areas of practice online must comply with the certification of specialization disclosure. Disclosure language depends on the practice area and the certifying commission.

Any lawyer who advertises in the public media must not include a statement that the lawyer has been certified by an organization as possessing special competency unless they include a factual and accurate statement of such membership or a disclaimer that includes the area of specialization and the name of certifying organization. Additionally, such statements may only be made if the organization has been accredited by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

If an advertisement discloses contingent fee agreements, the advertisement must disclose of the client may be held liable for other expenses and whether the percentage fees will be computed before or after expenses are deducted from the recovered compensation.

A lawyer shall disclose if they have been certified by an organization approved by the appropriate state authority or one that has been accredited by the American Bar Association and shall name clearly on the communication the name of the certifying organization.

A lawyer may communicate that they are specialized in a particular field of law, but most state clearly in the communication that there is no procedure in Vermont for approving certifying organizations. If the organization has been accredited by the American Bar Association, the communication does not have to include the previous disclaimer.

Attorneys must include a disclaimer that notes that the outcome of each legal case depends on many factors as each case is unique and that no lawyer can guarantee positive results. Additionally, the disclaimer must be in bold face type and uppercase letters in a font size that is at least the same size as the case results and in the same color. If a lawyer has been certified by the Supreme Court as a specialist they may communicate such information provided that a disclaimer denotes that there is no procedure for approving certifying organization.

If a lawyer implies that they are a specialist in a particular field of law, they may use the term certified, specialist, expert or other similar terms to describe their qualifications. However, if the term is used to identify a certificate, award or other type of recognition, they reference must be truthful and identify the certifying group, organization or association. Additionally, they must provide a disclaimer that states that the Supreme Court of Washington does not recognize the certification of specialties and that such recognition is not a requirement to practice law in the state.

A lawyer may not state or imply that they are certified as a specialist unless the organization has been approved by the appropriate state authority or accredited by the American Bar Association; and