An effective attorney’s website should provide information that helps answer general legal question, attract potential clients to book a consultation with their law firm, and most importantly be designed with an understanding of the bar rules that apply to legal advertising and communication with prospective clients.
An attorney is permitted to advertise their legal services through the use of electronic communications, including websites, internet profiles and social media profiles according to Rule 7.2 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct. However, the attorney must keep a copy of any advertisements, including websites, for two years after the advertisement was disseminated. The name of at least one attorney who is responsible for the content is also required to be on the website, even if the attorney signing their name has not authored the content they still must claim responsibility for the content. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct require the attorney’s website to disclose the city or town where the attorney’s principal office is located.
Rule 7.1 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct states that an attorney is not permitted to make false or misleading communications about themselves or their services. The rule specifically states a communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits any fact that is necessary to make a statement not materially misleading. An attorney should also not make truthful statements that are misleading. A truthful statement is considered misleading if “there is a substantial probability a reasonable person would create a specific conclusion about the lawyer or their services that is unsubstantiated.”
Rule 7.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney may not describe themselves as a “specialist,” unless they are certified by an organization approved by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, they are engaged in admiralty practice; they have been admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office; or if they are granted certification by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and the communication is not false or misleading.
Past case results on an attorney’s website have the potential to be misleading if they could make a reasonable person form an unjustified expectation that they would receive the same results in their case. A disclaimer about past case results is vital on an attorney’s website stating that the results are not typical and do not indicate the outcome for any case.