With all of the complexities that go into the practice of law, it may be easy for many in Florida to forget that attorneys (for the most part) are also small business owners. Like any business owner, the growth and success of their firms depends on good advertising. Per the Florida Bar, there are as many as 72,160 members eligible to practice in the state (as of 2015). This number demonstrates just how competitive the field of law can be for its practitioners.
Yet the need to gain new clients notwithstanding, an attorney’s primary responsibility is to represent their clients to the best of their abilities. Thus, they need to avoid scenarios were providing that representation and advertising their services clash. The American Bar Association has set forth in its Model Rules of Professional Conduct certain rules that pertain to attorney’s advertising their services to others.
According to these rules, an attorney can use any form of available media to advertise their services. They cannot, however, offer a client (or any other person) any form of compensation for referring them to others. The only exception to this rule include:
- Paying the reasonable costs for advertising services
- Paying for a structured legal service plan or a qualified or not-for-profit lawyer referral service
- Referring clients to other attorneys provided that referral agreement is not exclusive and clients are informed of the referral agreement
- Giving nominal gifts to clients to serve as tokens of appreciation (and not compensation for referral services)
While some of the aforementioned criteria may seem informal, attorneys are required to formally state their purposes when doing them to avoid any appearance of impropriety.