Once a new law firm is up and running, it will need clients, and to get clients, it will need to let the public know it’s open for business.
The Essential Rule to Follow
When communicating its services to the world, a law firm must be sure to abide by one basic rule:
As with most rules, there are nuances that apply depending on the jurisdiction and the scenario, so always check your local rules. Needless to say, false or misleading statements by a law firm to the public would violate ethical rules.
Use of Trade Name
For branding purposes, some firms may prefer to use a trade name instead of the lawyers’ names. Jurisdictions vary on this issue:
- Some allow their use so long as at least one lawyer’s name is included in the name. (Georgia).
- Some allow trade names without requiring an attorney’s name be included. (California; Florida; North Carolina).
- Some prohibit trade names altogether. (New York).
- Most, if not all, prohibit the use of a trade name that implies “a connection with a government agency or with a public or charitable legal services organization.” (e.g., North Carolina).
Specialist or Expert
A new law firm may wish to have a niche or focused practice. To get new clients in that niche area, its lawyers will likely want to tout their expertise in that area.
Jurisdictions typically place limitations on how lawyers can communicate their expertise. For example, many jurisdictions do not allow lawyers to call themselves “specialists” unless they’ve been certified by an approved organization. (e.g., New York; ABA). But some allow the “specialist” designation based on experience, training, or education. (Georgia)
Law firm advertising is allowed, but subject to numerous limitations and regulations. Prior to running any advertisements, press releases, or the like, lawyers should review their local ethical rules. I’ll be discussing some of these rules and regulations in the coming weeks.
Prior entries on Starting a Law Firm: