Under the specific lawyer advertising rule, Rule 7.1, of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney or law firm is prohibited from making false or misleading communication about the lawyer or their services. This includes:
- all communications about a lawyer’s services, including advertising permitted by Rule 7.2. Whatever means are used to make known a lawyer’s services, statements about them must be truthful.
- Truthful statements that are misleading are also prohibited by this Rule. A truthful statement is misleading if it omits a fact necessary to make the lawyer’s communication considered as a whole not materially misleading. A truthful statement is also misleading if there is a substantial likelihood that it will lead a reasonable person to formulate a specific conclusion about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services for which there is no reasonable factual foundation.
- An advertisement that truthfully reports a lawyer’s achievements on behalf of clients or former clients may be misleading if presented so as to lead a reasonable person to form an unjustified expectation that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances of each client’s case. Similarly, an unsubstantiated comparison of the lawyer’s services or fees with the services or fees of other lawyers may be misleading if presented with such specificity as would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the comparison can be substantiated. The inclusion of an appropriate disclaimer or qualifying language may preclude a finding that a statement is likely to create unjustified expectations or otherwise mislead the public.
Rule 7.2, states that an attorney must include the name and address of at least one lawyer or law firm that is responsible for the content on any communication that is an advertisement, including websites, even if that attorney has not authored the content themselves. Websites should also contain a disclaimer stating that “The Supreme Court of Illinois does not recognize certifications of specialties in the practice of law and the certificate, award or recognition is not a requirement to practice law in Illinois,” or “The information on this website is for general purposes only and should not be interpreted to indicate a certain result will occur in your specific legal situation,” or “The information on this website is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.”
According to Rule 7.4 an attorney may not use the terms, “certified,” “expert,” “specialist,” or any other similar term to describe the attorney’s qualifications as a lawyer; however they may state on their website whether they do or do not practice in particular fields of law.