The State Bar of California does not have lawyer advertising rules regarding the content on an attorney’s website. The content on the website is typically considered to be an advertisement that is subject to the advertising and solicitation rules as set out in the California Rules of Professional Conduct. According to the Formal Ethics Opinion 2001-155, an attorney’s website is “governed by rules regulating attorney print advertising in the California Rules of Professional Conduct.” In other words, an attorney’s website is not considered solicitation, but rather a form of communication.
Under the California Rules of Professional Conduct a communication is considered: “any message or offer regarding the availability of professional employment made by a lawyer or law firm to any prospective, former or present client, including any advertisement, regardless of the medium, directed to the public.”
Attorneys in California must comply with Rule 1-400(F) of the California Rules of Professional Conduct, which states an “attorney must retain recordings or copies of communication for two years to make available to the State bar of California, if requested.”
Rule 1-400(D)(6) states that an attorney or law firm in California may not claim they are a “specialist” or “certified” in a practice area in all instances unless the attorney has a current certificate issued by the Board of Legal Specialization, or any other accredited entity by the State Bar.
Additionally, under Rule of the California Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1-400(D)(4), the attorney’s communication or solicitation must not mislead potential clients or misconstrue information. To avoid this, it is good practice for attorneys to have a disclaimer on their website that clearly and expressly indicates the information is a communication or solicitation and not legal advice.
Information on an attorney’s website is considered communication or solicitation and therefore may not contain any information that is false, or likely to be perceived as confusing, or misleading to the public. A lawyer or law firm’s website also may not omit any facts or information that are necessary to make the information not misleading to the public under Rule 1-400(D)(2-3).