Thursday, October 17, 2013

Keep Up to Date on Your Advertising Ethics Rules!

I was lucky enough to attend the recent LMA luncheon with Gene Major, director of the Advertising Review Committee for the State Bar of Texas.  Gene was explaining how to navigate the tricky social media and traditional media labyrinth of the Bar to make sure lawyers stay compliant with the rules of professional conduct.  In an effort to break down the complexities of what lawyers need to know we will list the media medium and follow with the rules.

  • Twitter: as long as the content is editorial in nature and doesn't include a direct solicitation for business: "Call me for a free referral", it does not need to be submitted to the ARC for approval as an ad.  A lawyer/law firm's Twitter page may include links to the main website with "business card-type information" such as firm name, number, address and principal office.
  • Facebook: Same as Twitter (see above)
  • You Tube: video content must be editorial in nature absent a direct solicitation to avoid submitting for approval. However, each video may include a link to the main website's URL and a phone number.  This is also great for search engine optimization.
  • Linkedin: Content must be editorial in nature and, once again, can include "business card-type" information. Endorsements from clients and other attorneys are fine as long as they are truthful and don't present the attorney as having some sort of specialization that is in fact not true.
  • Website:All pages must be reviewed by the ARC after they are created as the website is considered a public media ad.  Actors or models may not represent attorneys.  Monetary verdict results can only be listed one of two ways; the full amount with fees delineated, or net to client.
  • Messaging content: Content may not portray the attorney as having any sort of "expertise" or "specialty" unless it is substantiated by a professional designation of some kind.  Language that is permitted includes; "limits practice to", "focuses on" "concentrates on".
  •  Email blasts: ADVERTISEMENT must be in the subject line.  Firm name, principal office must be included.  There must be language as to how the attorney came to be in possession of the recipient's email address.  In other words, how the recipient "opted in" to receive the emails.
  • Blogs: Must be educational/editorial in nature to not be considered a public media ad.  Can contain business card-type information.
  • ARC correspondence:  Lawyers must retain all records from the ARC for four years.  Anytime anything is submitted for approval and correspondence is shared, the attorney must retain those records.
  • Announcements in attorney publications:Attorney to attorney announcements are largely unregulated by the ARC unless the lawyer is falsely presenting themselves as having some sort of specialty.
  • Billboards: Must be reviewed and contain the firm name and principal office or offices.
  • TV ads: Must be reviewed and contain information with firm name and principal office or offices.
  • Radio ads: Must be reviewed and contain the firm name and principal office or offices.
  • Advertising after a disaster: For 30 days after a disaster no direct email or regular mail contact is allowed.  Billboards, TV and radio are not considered direct contact, but of course, they must be submitted for approval. 
  • Direct mail: ADVERTISEMENT must be prominently displayed on the envelope and in the correspondence inside. Mail piece must have firm name and principal office listed.
Approvals by the ARC are done in two ways and each costs $75 and requires a bar card number by a submitting attorney.
  • 25 days for pre-approval (advertising piece cannot go out until approved)
  • 40 days for concurrent review(advertising piece can go out but campaign must be stopped immediately if request is denied)
Click here to download the submission form

No comments: