Rules related to website design and internet marketing can be found in the Rules of Professional Conduct on the North Dakota State Bar website, specifically at Rule 7.1 through Rule 7.4. It is important to understand the rules in their entirety before building your law firm’s website.
Rule 7.1: Communications Concerning the Services of a Lawyer or Persons Professionally Associated with the Law
This rule prohibits lawyers from making false or misleading communications about themselves or their services. A statement is considered misleading if:
- 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;
- compares the lawyer with other lawyers, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated; or
- compares the lawyer’s services with other lawyers’ services based on the lawyer having received an honor or accolade, unless:
- the name of the comparing organization is stated, and
- the basis for the comparison can be substantiated.
Rule 7.2: Advertising
Rules governing advertising are intended to assist the public in obtaining an attorney; therefore, the laws permit a lawyer to “market and advertise legal services through media, including published and online directories; newspapers, newsletters and other periodicals; outdoor advertising; electronic advertising, including radio, television, video and the Internet.” However, all communications must be accompanied by “the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its contents.”
Additionally, this rule permits a lawyer to pay the necessary fees for advertising but prohibits them from paying another person to recommend their services.
Rule 7.3: Solicitation of Clients
Lawyers are prohibited from soliciting professional employment from any potential clients if:
- the target of the solicitation has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer
- the solicitation involves coercion, duress, or harassment; or
- the receipt of the solicitation is uninvited and imposes any involuntary economic cost on the prospective client to respond to the solicitation.
The rule defines solicitation as “ a targeted communication initiated by the lawyer that is directed to a specific person and that offers to provide, or can reasonably be understood as offering to provide, legal services.” A communication directed at the general public is not considered to be a solicitation.
Rule 7.4: Communication of Fields of Practice
A lawyer is allowed to communicate that they focus in or prefer to practice in specific areas of law, they are not permitted to state or imply that they are “specialists,” “specialize” in any field of law, unless:
- They admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office may use the designation “patent attorney” or a substantially similar designation
- They engaged in admiralty practice may use the designation “admiralty,” “proctor in admiralty,” or a substantially similar designation
- The communication clearly states the name of the certifying organization and that there is no procedure in this jurisdiction for approving certifying organizations. The communication need not contain such a statement if the named organization has been accredited by the American Bar Association or the lawyer has successfully completed a certification program sponsored by a state bar association.