Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which the next installment of my summary review of the new Florida lawyer advertising rules which will become effective on May 1, 2013 at 12:01 am. The Supreme Court of Florida’s opinion is at: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2013/sc11-1327.pdf.
As I indicated in my previous Ethics Alert on the new advertising rules, the Court’s opinion renumbered the revised rules stating that the court was concerned that without this modification “use of the same rule numbers could create confusion in case law for many years” since the new rules are “substantially different from the current rules.”
The revised advertising rules, as renumbered, are as follows: Rule 4-7.11 (Application of Rules); 4-7.12 (Required Content); 4-7.13 (Deceptive and Inherently Misleading Advertisements); 4-7.14 (Potentially Misleading Advertisements); 4-7.15 (Unduly Manipulative or Intrusive Advertisements); 4-7.16 (Presumptively Valid Content); 4-7.17 (Payment for Advertising and Promotion); 4-7.18 (Direct Contact with Prospective Clients); 4-7.19 (Evaluation of Advertisements); 4-7.20 (Exemptions From the Filing and Review Requirement); 4-7.21 (Firm Names and Letterhead); 4-7.22 (Lawyer Referral Services); and 4-7.23 (Lawyer Directory). This review will discuss new rules 4-7.20, 4-7.22, and 4-7.23.
Rule 4-7.20 (Exemptions From the Filing and Review Requirement). The exemptions from the filing and review requirement will be substantially unchanged and a “written or recorded communication requested by a prospective client” will continue to be exempt from filing; however, even though the communication is exempt from filing, the content of the communication requested from the prospective client will be subject to all of the advertising rules. This is a significant change from the current rules, which state that the advertising rules do not apply to such requested information. In addition, the rule provides that websites are exempt from the filing and review requirement.
Rule 4-7.22 (Lawyer Referral Services). This rule will require all lawyer referral service advertisements to affirmatively state “lawyers who accept referrals from (the referral service) pay to participate in the lawyer referral service.” This disclosure will be in addition to the affirmative “lawyer referral service” disclosure that is currently required.
Rule 4-7.23 (Lawyer Directory). This new rule addresses “lawyer directories” for the first time. A “lawyer directory” is defined as “(a)ny person, group of persons, association, organization, or entity that receives any consideration, monetary or otherwise, given in exchange for publishing a listing of lawyers together in one place, such as a common Internet address, a book or pamphlet, a section of a book or pamphlet, in which all the participating lawyers and their advertisements are provided and the viewer is not directed to a particular lawyer or lawyers.” Telephone directories and voluntary bar associations which list members on a website or in a publication are not within the definition and there is no requirement for lawyers listed in a “lawyer directory” to be covered by malpractice insurance or that a “lawyer directory” provide the Florida Bar with a list of participating lawyers.
Bottom line: When the revised rules become effective on May 1, 2013, they will be some of the most comprehensive advertisement rules in the country, particularly related to social media and electronic communication, and will be a sea change with regard to lawyer advertising regulation in Florida. Stay tuned…
…and be careful out there!
Disclaimer: this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431
Clearwater, Florida 33759
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670