Bar Rules for Attorney Advertising
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Ohio

Ohio Bar Rules for Attorney Advertising

Attorney websites in Ohio are usually considered advertisements, which are subject to regulation by the Ohio State Bar Association. Typically the state's bar rules or rules of ethics and professional conduct specifically govern law firm and attorney website advertising and marketing.

Due to the vast number of attorneys and law firms that use the internet to advertise their practice, complying with the state bar rules has become increasingly important. Any failure to do so can result in disciplinary actions or sanctions against the attorney. Unfortunately, many times attorneys unwittingly violate the bar rules because their website design and marketing company failed to abide by the bar rules in the attorney's state when creating their website.

An attorney interested in developing an effective internet marketing strategy should carefully examine every Ohio bar rule that applies to legal advertising and marketing, in addition to internet websites. An attorney in Ohio should also have a general understanding about the emerging trends in laws that govern attorney websites throughout the country. By staying ahead of any changes, the attorney can often save time, money and frustration when new rules are announced.

Internet LAVA strictly focuses on attorney internet marketing and provides services to attorneys throughout Ohio and every jurisdiction in the United States. Internet LAVA strives to provide our clients with a professional website that conveys the image the law firm wants to project. The goal of a law firm's website should be to provide general information on a variety of legal topics that are most important to the law firm's ideal clients. Developing educational and informative content will set a law firm's website apart from the competition and give the attorney the best chance of ranking highly in the search engines. Contact Internet LAVA at 1-800-292-LAVA for more information on how to ensure your marketing strategy is in fulfillment with the bar rules in Ohio.

Ohio Bar Rules Resources

Ohio State Bar Association Website - This link is to the Ohio State Bar Association's website, which provides information pertaining to the Ohio State Bar Association and attorneys in Ohio, including public resources, online legal research service, and certification for attorneys in Ohio. The Ohio State Bar Association is located at:

OSBA
1700 Lake Shore Drive
Columbus, Ohio 43204
Phone: (614) 487-2050

Ohio Supreme Court - This link is to the Ohio Supreme Court, which provides court opinions on various legal topics, in addition to court rules and forms, advisory opinions and online court services. The Supreme Court is located at:

The Supreme Court of Ohio
65 South Front Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Phone: (614) 387-9000

Ohio Ethics Commission - This link is to the Ohio Ethics Commission, which promotes ethics in public service professions throughout Ohio. The Ohio Ethics Commission's website also contains ethics advice, in addition to ethics laws that professionals must follow.

Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct - This link is to the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, which provides the rules that regulate attorney website advertisement and marketing.


Ohio Bar Rules Information Center


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Guidelines for Bar Rules in Ohio

In general, all advertising and communications made by an attorney or law firm are governed by the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct. Advertisements and communications include all electronic communication, such as content published on the internet and websites used to market and advertise for the lawyer's firm, as defined in Rule 7.2 of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct.

According to Rule 7.2, all communications and advertisements must contain at least one lawyer's or law firm's name and office address that is responsible for the content. This does not mean the attorney or law firm must write the content themselves, but they must state their name and that they are responsible for the content.


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Prohibited Information on Ohio Lawyer Websites

According to Rule 7.1 of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney is prohibited from making or using a false, unverifiable or misleading communication about the attorney or their services. In order to determine if a communication is false or misleading, the bar rules state a false or misleading communication contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law or omits a fact that is necessary to make the statement not misleading when taken as a whole.

Beyond the general requirements that an attorney's website communications do not contain any false, deceptive or misleading statements, Comment 2 of Rule 7.1 states that attorneys must also make sure that even true statements do not create a substantial likelihood that would cause a reasonable person to create a specific conclusion about the lawyer or the lawyer's services.

Additionally, Comment 4 to Rule 7.1 states that certain characterizations of rates or fees can be misleading. Terms that are discouraged include:

  • Special,
  • Lowest,
  • Below Cost,
  • Giveaway,
  • Cut-rate, or
  • Discount.

Additionally, under Rule 7.4 (e) of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney must not state or imply in any communication that they are a specialist, certified or specialized in a particular field of law, unless:

  • The lawyer or law firm has been certified as a specialist by an organization that has been approved by the Supreme Court Commission on Certification of Attorneys as Specialists; and
  • The communication clearly identifies the name of the certifying organization.

Also, Rule 7.5 of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct contains important restrictions on the name of the law firm on any website, advertisement or communication. For instance, a solo practitioner should not use the phrase "and Associates" because it may be misleading to the public in believing that the lawyer has an employment relationship with another attorney.


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Testimonials on Ohio Law Firm Websites

Comment 3 to Rule 7.1 of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct also states that past case result, testimonials, or any other advertisement that reports on a lawyer's achievements on behalf of another client may be misleading if presented in a way that would create an expectation that the same results would be obtained for another client in a similar situation.

Testimonials on an Ohio attorney's website or other internet marketing material are often problematic because a former client will naturally attempt to compare their attorney to other attorneys. Often, former clients are overzealous in their description without providing enough information that puts the comment in the proper context. Although many attorneys like to hand pick testimonials to include on the website, the attorney should be aware that the testimonial or past case result may be perceived as misleading.

On the other hand, using a verifiable discussion of past case results is important to the public. By seeing the types of cases the attorney has taken in the past, the viewer can quickly get a general idea about the attorney's experience. When a past case results page is completed correctly, no other page on the website is more effective for helping the public understand the scope of services provided by the attorney.

Potential clients are often looking for an attorney with experience handling their particular case in their particular jurisdiction. The case results information is critical to making that determination to the extent allowed under the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct. Additionally, adding information about past case results is also an effective way to attract clients with similar problems.


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Disclaimers on Ohio Websites

Appropriate disclaimers may help the viewer understand the limitations to certain communications, according to Comment 3 of Rule 7.1. Since even truthful limitations may be considered misleading if they create an unjustified expectation in the mind of a reasonable person as to the results the attorney could achieve for a particular situation, it is important to provide a disclaimer on the attorneys website.

An appropriate disclaimer is generally displayed in a manner that is conspicuous and in the same font size as other text on the website. The disclaimer should state the information on the website is not legal advice, that results are not typical, and the information should not be construed that a certain result will occur in a similar situation.


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Internet LAVA, LLC | Ohio Bar Rules for Attorney Websites

Contact Internet LAVA at 1-800-292-LAVA to discuss your law firm's specific internet marketing goals today. Internet LAVA understands that a lawyer's website must stay in compliance with the bar rules in their state, and makes every effort to ensure clients remain in compliance with all applicable Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct when designing and marketing attorney websites throughout Ohio.


Fill out the short form below to request a free 30-minute website evaluation.