Legal advertising in the state of California can be tricky. Attorneys must learn about the laws and follow them explicitly to remain compliant. The State Bar of California sets the regulations and enforces them. A legal professional may be subject to disciplinary action if they violate these rules.
According to the State Bar of California rule 7.2 on advertising, there are specific situations where you can pay for someone to recommend your law firm and others where it is prohibited. Some cases where it is okay for you to pay to have someone recommend your law services include:
Legal Referral - Attorneys can pay standard charges to hire a firm that offers legal recommendations as part of their regular services. The legal referral service must operate within the State Bar of California’s Minimum Standards for a Lawyer Referral Service in California.
Paid Advertising - A lawyer can pay for legitimate advertising or hire a marketing firm to help with legal marketing and promotion.
Refer Clients to Another Lawyer - If you have a reciprocal agreement with another lawyer where you both refer clients to one another, and that agreement is not exclusive, the State Bar of California allows it. However, you must inform the client of your agreement with the other law firm.
Gratuity/Thank You - If another lawyer recommends your law firm and you get a client as a result, you are allowed to offer that person a gift or gratuity after the fact as long as you didn’t offer up or promise them something upfront to get you the client.
Lawyers and law firms cannot pay clients to recommend their law firm. That includes offering them gifts, cash, or anything of value. You also cannot promise them anything of value to get a referral.
This rule applies to clients, vendors, other individuals, and law firms. The bottom line is that you cannot pay someone to recommend your law firm unless they are in the business of marketing or offering recommendations as part of their services.
The only exceptions to this rule are listed above.
When recommending a law firm, the entity doing the recommending can only include the following types of information:
However, anyone recommending a law firm may not provide misleading or false information (including endorsements) or specifics about fees that may not be accurate.
INGAGE Marketing specializes in helping law firms and attorneys market their services legally and effectively throughout the U.S. We are well-versed in the state bar rules for every state and can help you further your reach and attract more clients. Contact us today for more information.