Advertising and marketing your law firm helps get your name out there for ideal clients.
But to advertise in New Jersey, lawyers’ activities must comply with rules that many other businesses never need to think about. In addition to national attorney advertising rules developed and governed by the American Bar Association, New Jersey lawyers must also follow state-specific compliance rules.
Understanding New Jersey’s rules for attorney advertising provides lawyers in that state with a firm framework for advertising ethically and clears the way for doing so effectively.
Overview of New Jersey’s Attorney Advertising Rules
New Jersey’s Rules of Professional Conduct lay out the requirements for attorney advertising.
These rules are an appendix to the New Jersey Rules of Court and are published by the New Jersey Bar. All issues related to attorney ethics and legal practice fall under the governance of the New Jersey Supreme Court.
New Jersey also has a Committee on Attorney Advertising. This body of lawyers and non-lawyers has full authority to look into ethics grievances and advisory opinions on matters for advertisements and related communications under the state’s rules.
Rules 7.1 through 7.5 cover the lion’s share of the requirements for advertising. Some related details may be found in other rules. The rules related to attorney advertising are in place to protect the public as well as to maintain professionalism across the practice of law in New Jersey.
Per Rule 7.1, attorney advertising is considered any communication of information about the lawyer’s services through public media.
That includes legal directories, television, radio, newspapers, telephony directories, written mailed communication, or internet and electronic media, including websites.
Rule 7.1: Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Service
Rule 7.1 covers New Jersey’s definition of communication and general regulations for attorney communications.
Most importantly, Rule 7.1 addresses any misleading or false statements in any form of advertising. A communication is considered misleading or false if it:
- Omits necessary facts to make the full statement not misleading
- Can create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can obtain
- Implies that the lawyer can achieve results by ways that violate professional conduct rules
- Creates a misrepresentation of law or fact
- Contains references to any legal fee statement beyond a range of fees, initial consult fee, hourly rate, or fixed fee
Further, a statement is misleading if it compares a lawyer’s service offerings with other lawyers without a disclaimer or is missing a basis for substantiating the claims.
The following disclaimer must be included with any ad comparing one lawyer’s services with another: “No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.”
Lawyers are forbidden from using any ads or communications previously disapproved or similar to those disapproved by the Committee on Attorney Advertising.
Rule 7.2: Advertising
Rule 7.1 covers New Jersey’s general rules on advertising.
These state that a lawyer can communicate details about their services through many means, but also outline filing requirements for any ad and rules around compensation for referrals/testimonials.
Lawyers in New Jersey must keep copies of their ads for three years after it was used. Information on a law firm’s website must be captured and stored on an electronic or paper backup a minimum of once a month, and this must be stored for at least three years.
New Jersey attorneys cannot give anything of value for recommending the attorney’s services with the following exceptions:
- A lawyer can pay reasonable ad costs
- A lawyer can pay general charges for a non-profit lawyer referral service
- A lawyer can pay for ads and written details related to selling the full legal practice
Rule 7.3: Personal Contact with Prospective Clients
Rule 7.3 covers New Jersey’s rules on contact with prospective clients, solicitations, and referrals.
A lawyer is allowed to initiate contact with a potential client for the purposes of obtaining employment so long as that lawyer does not violate the stipulations outlined below.
Contact with Potential Clients Through Written Means
Lawyers cannot contact or send written or electronic communications to potential clients if:
- The person requested not to receive contact from the lawyer
- The lawyer knows that the person’s mental/physical state bars reasonable judgment
- The communication involves duress, harassment, or coercion of any type
- The outreach occurs within 30 days after a mass disaster event
When outreach relates to an event that is not a classified mass disaster, the lawyer must take additional steps with their communication. These steps include that:
- Only a letter can be sent by regular mail
- The letter must use the word “ADVERTISEMENT” in all capitals
- The envelope can only include the lawyer’s name, address, and “ADVERTISEMENT”
- A statement that the recipient can ignore the letter if they already have a lawyer
Additionally, two notices must be included at the bottom of the last page of text on these letters.
- “Before making your choice of attorney, you should give this matter careful thought. The selection of an attorney is an important decision.”
- “If this letter is inaccurate or misleading, report same to the Committee on Attorney Advertising, Hughes Justice Complex, P.O. Box 970, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0970.”
The name and address of the attorney responsible for the content of the letter shall be included in these notices.
Compensation for Recommending the Lawyer
Lawyers cannot knowingly help any organization that pays for legal services to others to promote their own legal services if the promotional activity involved relates to false/misleading statements, unwarranted promises of benefits, duress, compulsion, threats, intimidation, or harassing conduct.
Lawyers cannot provide anything of value to an organization or person for recommending or securing the lawyer’s employment by a client.
A lawyer can pay for reasonable fees/dues charged by a legitimate lawyer referral service approved or sponsored by a bar association.
Lawyers can cooperate with organizations like legal aid offices, military legal assistance offices, lawyer referral services approved by a bar association, and certain organizations that pay for or furnish legal services to their members.
Those organizations must:
- Not retain any profit from recommending legal services
- Provide any financial benefit for recommending the organization
- Exist for reasons beyond the sole purpose is procuring legal work for a lawyer
- File with the Supreme Court annually about their legal service plan
- Recognize the client/beneficiary as the lawyer’s client
- Allow the client to select other counsel for handling the legal matter if the client chooses
Rule 7.4: Communication of Fields of Practice and Certification
Rule 7.4 covers what attorneys can and cannot claim about service areas and certifications or specializations.
Specific language around certifications and specializations cannot be used by any lawyer in New Jersey unless certain terms are met. A lawyer can state that they do or do not practice certain fields of law.
Attorneys cannot call themselves a specialist or denote certification within a field unless:
- A lawyer admitted to practice before the USPTO is using the words “patent attorney”
- A lawyer practicing admiralty law is using “proctor in admiralty” or “admiralty”
- The lawyer has received a designation from the Supreme Court of New Jersey or the ABA
Rule 7.5: Law Firm Names and Letterheads
Rule 7.5 covers what names attorneys can refer to their firms by, such as trade names or business names.
Lawyers cannot use false or misleading law firm names or designations. A law firm with multiple offices can use the same firm name in New Jersey. When doing so, the firm must indicate the limitations on any lawyers in the firm unable to practice in NJ.
The law firm’s name cannot contain the name of any individual not currently associated with the firm as a lawyer other than names of people who have left through retirement or have passed away after working for the firm as a lawyer.
Firms cannot imply they practice in a partnership unless they can show that the firm’s partners share liability and responsibility for the firm’s legal services. Persons designated in the firm name must be members, partners, or shareholders in the firm.
Law firms in NJ can use language like “and associates” only when that accurately describes the firm’s services.
To use language like “legal services,” you must share the fact that the firm is not associated with a charitable or public organization. Firms are not allowed to use the name “legal aid” in their firm name.
Trade names are allowed so long as the name is not comparative, suggestive of possible case results, or misleading. If the trade name does not include a current or previous firm lawyer’s name on it, communication about the firm name must include the name and contact information for at least one firm lawyer.
How Do These Rules Apply to Law Firm Websites?
Lawyer websites are permissible in New Jersey. Your site must follow all rules relating to advertising communication. Your firm must also store your backups of website materials per rule 7.2.
Many lawyers choose to cover their bases by using a disclaimer on their website stating their website content is not considered a guarantee of case outcomes or a representation of legal services between the reader and the law firm.
Applying New Jersey’s Advertising Rules to Your Practice
There are a few best practices attorneys can follow to ensure compliance with New York’s advertising rules.
Start by completing a thorough review of the advertising rules in relation to your current ads and website. Then set aside time to regularly review and update ad materials and train your staff on ad rules and regulations.
If an outside partner, such as a law firm marketing agency, manages your website, they should also understand and comply with New Jersey’s Rules of Professional Conduct.
Growing Your Firm with Advertising
Implementing digital marketing and advertising options like investing in law firm SEO, social media marketing, and more can be a great thing for a New Jersey law firm.
But to achieve your goals, your law firm marketing strategy must comply with New Jersey’s Rules of Professional Conduct.
Applying the rules helps you clear the way for effective and ethical advertising. Having an outside marketing partner who understands them can save you time and get you better results than trying to do it yourself. Contact Rankings.io to learn more about our full suite of digital marketing support for law firms.