The Florida Bar strictly regulates lawyer advertising and business solicitation. On their website, the Florida Bar provides an array of helpful information for law firms to comply with the complex web of rules and restrictions. Failure to reply can result in professional discipline. The rules are spelled out in painful detail, including what lawyers can post to social media on pages that promote the firm, how they can reach out to prospective clients through social media, how they can represent their qualifications and experience, and how videos can be shared on YouTube. These rules are often challenged and are constantly evolving.
Lawyer Referral Services
On July 29, 2016, the Florida Bar approved amendments to rules regulating lawyer referral services. These amendments broaden the definition of “lawyer referral service” to include any type of matching service or pooled advertising program. All these services are now subject to the Florida Bar’s rules.
Ban on Advertising Past Results Struck Down
In 2014, the Florida Bar noted that when a firm advertises past results, this carries a particularly high risk of being misleading. However, a District Court subsequently ruled that lawyer advertising is protected commercial speech under the First Amendment, and that the Florida Bar failed to provide any support for their claim that advertising past results on the television or radio was misleading.
In January of 2016, the Florida Bar modified an advisory opinion, concluding that lawyers may solicit prospective clients in Internet chat rooms (i.e. real time communications between computer users), provided that the lawyers complies with all the rules that apply to written communications and files any unsolicited communications with the Florida Bar for review. The modified opinion also states that lawyers can respond to specific questions posed to them in chat rooms, but should be wary of inadvertently forming attorney-client relationships with those in chat rooms.
“We Specialize in Personal Injury Claims!”
One of the more controversial advertising restrictions that the Bar adopted several years ago was the rule that lawyers could not refer to themselves as either experts or specialists in their practice areas unless they have been certified under the state bar’s certification plan, or another plan accredited by either the Florida Bar or the ABA. However, a federal district court has recently struck this prohibition down , on grounds that it violates a lawyer’s First Amendment rights. This ruling also applies to statements on blogs and social media.