In Colorado, lawyer advertising rules related to digital marketing, website design and advertising are found in Rule 7.1 through Rule 7.5.
The Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct is a list of ethics rules that state the requirements all lawyers and law firms must follow when advertising or marketing online.
When a law firm presents content on their website they must include at least one lawyer’s name on the advertisements stating they are responsible for the content, even if this lawyer has not written any of the content.
In general, at least one lawyer’s name must be included on the advertisement stating they are responsible for the content. This does not mean they must write the content, but they will be held responsible if the conduct does not comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 7.1 prohibits the use of misleading or false communications about the services an attorney offers on their website.
The Rules of Professional Conduct state a communication may be misleading when:
- The statement does not include a fact that is necessary to make the statement not materially misleading;
- The statement has a material misrepresentation of law or fact;
- The statement compares the lawyer’s services to that of another, unless they can be supported by factual evidence; or
- The statement will probably create an unjustified expectation about the lawyer’s ability to obtain a particular result.
According to the comments to Rule 7.1 attorney’s skills or abilities could be misleading if they cannot be substantiated factually. Additionally, if when stating the number of years a law firm has been practicing the website combines the years of experience of all members of the law firm and does not differentiate the years of experience each lawyer has, this can be misleading to potential clients. Rule 7.1 also states that an attorney may not make misleading statements about their fees. The Colorado Bar Association states that descriptions such as “cheap” or “cut rate” or “lowest” cannot be factually substantiated and are therefore misleading.
The Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct, outline the use of case results on an attorney’s website very specifically. Case results can often imply to prospective clients the lawyer will be able to achieve the same result in the future. also discuss statements about past case results in the comments sections of communications concerning a lawyer’s services, and therefore misleading, unless they are factually substantiated.
Very often, the past case results page on criminal defense attorney websites is the most important component of a prospective client’s search for an attorney. Potential clients want to know what types of cases their prospective attorney has taken on and the results they achieved. Therefore, it is essential attorneys provide those searching for their services with disclaimers about past case results. The disclaimer should state the results do not in any way imply the same results will be able to be repeated again in the future and that there is no guarantee the results will be the same for any future case or client.
Rule 7.4 of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct states that an attorney or law firm is not permitted to portray themselves as a specialist in any given area unless they have been certified by a state authority approved organization or any organization accredited by the American Bar Association as a specialist. If an attorney has received such certifications they must clearly identify their certifying organization on the website communication.
If an attorney claims to be certified in an area of law on their website, they must include the following disclosure on their site:
“Colorado does not certify lawyers as specialists in any field.”
Rule 7.4 allows an attorney or law firm in Colorado to state whether they do or do not practice in certain areas of law. The prohibition is limited to using terms such as “certified specialist”, “specalize” or “specialist” or “board certified.”