Have You Done an Ethics Check on Your Firm Website?

By Raven Sarnoff, Sarnoff & Sarnoff

A California attorney’s website must comply with California Rule of Professional Conduct 1-400 and Business and Professions Code sections 6157 through 6159.2. In addition to ensuring your website contains no false or misleading content, check your website for:

Must Haves

  • “Advertisement” or “newsletter” in 12-point font on first page
  • Name of at least one lawyer responsible for content
  • If the practice is only in California, you need to include:
    • where the attorney is licensed to practice law
    • physical location of law office and where the attorney practices,
    • limitations on courts where the attorney willing to appear, and
    • statement that the attorney does not seek to represent anyone based solely on a visit to website
  • Testimonials and endorsements containing this disclaimer, “This testimonial or endorsement does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter”
  •  Firm must retain copies of each page of every published version and revision website for two years

Does Not State or Imply

  • A fee that will increase within 90 days unless a shorter period of time initially specified
  • Availability of contingency fees or “no fee without recovery” without stating client’s liability for costs
  • The firm provides legal services in a language other than English unless:
    • a lawyer provides legal services in the language, or
    •  the website states (in the other language) the title of the person who speaks the language and that the person is not a member of the bar
  • Guarantees, warranties, or predictions of results, including quick cash or settlements
  • Results in specific case(s) not compliant with Business and Professions Code sections 6158.1(a)&(c), and 6158.3
  • Dramatizations, impersonations, endorsements, or depictions of injurious events without disclaimers and not compliant with Business and Professions Code sections 6157.2(c) and 6158.1(b)
  • False reference to lawyer as “certified specialist,” or failure to identify entity granting certification to specialists
  • False reference to participation in bar certified lawyer referral service or satisfaction of minimum standards for lawyer referral services

Remember, although you may employ others to assist you in creating your website, you are responsible for its content.

 

About the author
Raven Sarnoff is a partner at Sarnoff + Sarnoff, an employment litigation firm in San Francisco and San Mateo that represents employees in a broad range of employment matters, including discrimination, wage and hour, and contract cases, and severance negotiations and agreements.