All rules regarding digital advertising in West Virginia are regulated through the West Virginia Rules for Professional Conduct.
Rule 7.1 governs communications concerning a lawyer’s services and prohibits the use false or misleading communications about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication could be regarded as false or 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 lawyer’s services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated.
Rule. 7.2 acts as the governing rule of general advertising. This rule permits lawyers to advertise through public media; however the attorney must keep a copy of the advertisement or communication for two years after its last dissemination along with a record of when and where it was used. Attorneys are prohibited from giving anything of value to a person for recommending their services; however, they may pay the reasonable cost of advertisements or communications permitted by this rule.
Rule 7.3 regulates the solicitation of prospective clients. It states that “A lawyer shall not by in-person or telephone contact solicit professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship when a motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain.” It also states that any written or recorded communication must contain the words “Advertising Material” on the outside of the envelope.
Rule 7.4 allows an attorney to communicate whether or not they concentrate in certain areas of the law; however, they shall not state or imply they “specialize” or are a “certified specialist” 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.