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Legal Advertising: 10 Ethical Tips for Success
Post on May 1st, 2024

Triplines, landmines, and trap doors? Advertising legal services may seem fraught with peril. This week, we’re neutralizing the hazard with 10 tips for effectively and ethically advertising legal services in Ohio:

    1. Start with the Rules: Familiarize yourself with the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct: Rules 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, and (new) Rule 7.4. These rules lay the foundation for how lawyers can advertise their services, ensuring compliance with ethical standards.
    2. Provide Clear and Accurate Information: Reliable information about available legal services can be a benefit to the public. Ensure that all information provided in your advertisements is truthful, accurate, and not misleading. This includes information about your qualifications, services offered, and fees. Using clear and easily understandable language will help you connect with your audience while legal jargon and terms of art may create distance. See Ohio Advisory Opinion 2017-1 Advertisement of Contingent Fee Arrangements.
    3. Avoid Guarantees or Promises: Refrain from making guarantees or promises regarding the outcome of a case in your advertisements. Comment [3] to RPC 7.1 discourages advertising about prior verdicts or settlements or other outcomes “if presented so as to lead a reasonable person to form an unjustified expectation [of the] same results.” Ohio prohibits lawyers from making statements that create unjustified expectations about the results they can achieve. If your advertisement includes testimonials or endorsements, include a disclaimer stating that past results do not guarantee future outcomes. See Ohio Advisory Opinion 2016-8 Client Testimonials in Lawyer Advertising and Online Services.
    4. Include Relevant Contact Information: RPC 7.2(c) currently still requires disclosure of the name and office address of the lawyer or law firm responsible for the written, recorded, or electronic communication that advertises legal services. Make sure your advertisements include current contact information, including phone number, email address, and website URL. This allows potential clients to easily reach you for more information.
    5. Dignified Doesn’t Equal Dull: Professional, polished, experienced and trustworthy may be some messages you want to communicate through your advertising. Branding reflecting these themes doesn’t have to be boring, though. Work with creative designers who understand how to message qualities that show you, and the profession, in the best light. 
    6. Respect Client Confidentiality: Be mindful of client confidentiality when advertising your services. Even if a past client left a Google review, obtain written and informed consent of the client to use their testimonial for advertising purposes, advising them of the duration of the use of their testimonial and their ability to decline or withdraw consent. Also consider using their initials in lieu of a full name. However, never make up fake testimonials – that is inherently misleading and untruthful, barred by RPC 7.1.  
    7. Give them Space: The crux of RPC 7.3 on soliciting clients hinges on giving vulnerable members of the public space and time to make important decisions about legal services. Except in limited circumstances, attorneys may not solicit a prospective client in-person or electronically in real-time. This includes use of third-party services. 
    8. No Referral Fees or Quid Pro Quo Referral Arrangements: Referral fees or giving anything of value to a person for recommending a lawyer is generally prohibited by various Rules of Professional Conduct. Standing or reciprocal referral arrangements interfere with professional discretion, however, participation in lawyer referral services is permitted. See Comment [7] to RPC 7.2.  
    9. Stay Informed of Changes: Stay informed about any changes to Ohio’s rules and regulations regarding attorney advertising. Rule 7.4 and Gov. Bar Rule XIV were recently amended to expand the ability of attorneys to communicate specialization. See the Amendments eff. April 15, 2024 for more information.  Additional amendments to Chapter 7 of the Rules of Professional Conduct are still under consideration. 
    10. Seek Guidance When Unsure: If you’re unsure about whether a particular advertising strategy complies with Ohio’s Rules, review additional Ohio Board of Professional Conduct’s Advisory Opinions or consult with a legal ethics attorney for clarification. 

Speaking of which, if you’re insured by OBLIC and you still have questions, call your Loss Prevention Team to discuss or schedule your annual complimentary ethics consultation. Check out some of our prior posts on advertising (like this one from June 23, 2021 and the January 24, 2024 post on the use of Generative AI). We’re here to help. 

Gretchen K. Mote, Esq.
Director of Loss Prevention
Ohio Bar Liability Insurance Co.
Direct:  614.572.0620
[email protected]
Merisa K. Bowers, Esq.
Loss Prevention Counsel
Ohio Bar Liability Insurance Co.
Direct:  614.859.2978
[email protected]


This information is made available solely for loss prevention purposes, which may include claim prevention techniques designed to minimize the likelihood of incurring a claim for legal malpractice. This information does not establish, report, or create the standard of care for attorneys. The material is not a complete analysis of the topic and should not be construed as providing legal advice. Please conduct your own appropriate legal research in this area. If you have questions about this email’s content and are an OBLIC policyholder, please contact us using the information above.