Rule 7.1 of New York’s Rules for Professional Conduct prohibits the dissemination of any advertisement that contains statements or claims that are false, deceptive or misleading. Lawyers are required to pre-approve and keep a copy of all advertisements, including websites, for at least one year. If a website is majorly redesigned a lawyer is required to keep a copy of the original content on the original publication of the site.
Additionally under Rule 7.1(h), at least one attorney or law firm’s name, telephone number and location of the principal law office is required on all advertisements, and the home page of the attorney’s website that is used to advertise or market the services of the attorney shall be labeled with the phrase, “Attorney Advertising.” It is also a wise idea to state on the website that submitting a case evaluation form does not create an attorney-client relationship. This helps to avoid any misunderstanding that any attorney/client relationship can be established within the discussion area of a website.
It is common practice for an attorney in New York to include testimonials from former clients on their website. However, they must be extremely careful to ensure according the testimonial is not false or misleading. All information must be factually verifiable and also include a disclaimer that states “prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.”
Rule 7.4 of the New York Rules for Professional conduct prohibits a lawyer from using terms like “certified,” “specialized,” or “certified specialist” unless:
- The lawyer is certified as a specialist in a certain area of law by a private organization approved by the American Bar Association
- The lawyer is certified as a specialist in a certain area of law by an authority having jurisdiction over specialization under the laws of another state or territory
The meta-tags or other hidden computer codes on a New York attorney’s website must also not use any false or misleading information or use the term “specialist.”