The bar rules and guidelines regarding digital advertising are explicitly dealt with in the North Carolina Rules for Professional Conduct. All North Carolina law firms are required to display the jurisdictions they are licensed to practice in on their homepage in order to avoid ambiguity.
Under Rule 7.1, which governs communications regarding a lawyer’s services, at least one attorney’s name or law firm’s name is required to be on the website that is responsible for the content on the website. Rule 7.1 regulates an attorney’s communications, and prohibits the use of any misleading information. Verbiage such as “best attorney,” or “top law firm,” can be misleading to potential clients when they are made on the attorney’s website.
A communication can also be considered misleading if it:
- contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading;
- is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law; or
- Compares the lawyer’s services with other lawyers’ services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated.
Attorneys should also be careful to avoid self-laudatory statements that compare the attorney’s service with services of another lawyer or law firm unless the comparison can be factually substantiated, according to Rule 7.1.
It is very often to provide context to prospective clients regarding results of former cases. Testimonials from previous clients can often imply an attorney will achieve the same results for similar future cases. To avoid this miscommunication, an attorney should provide a disclaimer on their website.