Quick Reference Advertising Checklist
Rules of Professional Conduct
NOTE: The following quick reference checklist is intended to assist advertising agents to develop ads that comply with the legal Rules of Professional Conduct. Furthermore, a NO answer to all the questions does not guarantee that the ad will be found to comply with the rules regulating advertising.
If the answer to any of the following questions is YES, the advertisement fails to comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct.
1. Does the advertisement contain any misrepresentations of fact or law?
2. Does the advertisement contain any information that is likely to create unjustified expectations? (i.e. -- references to prior successes, promises of positive outcomes, etc.)
3. Does the advertisement contain any statements that are merely self-laudatory?
4. Does the advertisement fail to disclose the city where the advertising agent principally practices business?
5. Does the advertisement fail to contain the name of at least one agent responsible for the advertisement?
6. If the advertising firm employs a fictitious or trade name, does the fictitious or trade name fail to appear on all the firm's advertising, letterhead, business cards, office sign, pleadings, and other firm documents?
7. Only attorneys who are board certified in a particular area of the law may claim a specialization or expertise and only in the area of law in which they are certified. A firm or business cannot claim a specialization.
a. Does the advertising agent, who is not board certified, claim a legal specialization or expertise?
b. Does the advertising agent, who is a lawyer, and who may be board certified, claim a specialization or expertise in an area of law other than that in which he or she is board certified?
c. Does the advertising business claim a specialization?
8. If the advertisement quotes a fee, does it fail to disclose whether the client will be responsible for any costs or expenses in addition to the advertised fee?
9. If the advertisement states that the agent will not receive a fee unless work is completed, does the advertisement fail to disclose whether or not the client will be responsible for costs or expenses in the absence of a prior to completion payment?
10. Does the advertisement contain any illustrations or photographs that cannot be factually substantiated or are merely self-laudatory?
11. Does the advertisement contain a dramatization? (A dramatization is defined as: scenes creating suspense, scenes containing exaggerations or situations calling for legal services, scenes creating consumer problems through characterization and dialogue ending with the lawyer solving the problem, and the audio or video portrayal or an event or situation.)
12. Does the advertisement contain any testimonials or endorsements?
13. Does the advertisement employ a celebrity voice?
14. Does the advertisement employ any background sound other than instrumental music?
15. If an actor appears in the advertisement, is that person posing as a lawyer or employee or the business?
16. If the advertisement is a non-exempt print advertisement, does it fail to contain the following disclosures? : FLORIDA HOMESTEAD SERVICES, LLC IS NOT ASSOCIATED WITH ANY GOVERNMENT AGENCY.
FILING HOMESTEAD DOES NOT PROTECT YOUR HOME AGAINST FORCED SALE BY ANY AND ALL CREDITORS. THE DOCUMENTS OFFERED BY FLORIDA HOMESTEAD SERVICES, LLC IS AN ADVERTISEMENT OF SERVICES. IT IS NOT AN OFFICIAL DOCUMENT OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA OR ANY OTHER GOVERNMENT ENTITY.
17. Specific rules regulate direct mail communications.
a. Does the envelope fail to have the word "Advertisement" plainly marked in red ink in the lower left hand corner?
b. Does each enclosure fail to have the word "Advertisement" plainly marked in red ink?
c. Does the direct mail communication include a Statement of Qualifications [hypertext link] either on a separate document or incorporated into the body of the direct mail communication?
d. Does the direct mail communication include a contract that is not marked "SAMPLE" in red ink in type size one size larger than the largest used in the contract and "DO NOT SIGN" in the client signature line?
e. If the direct mail communication concerns a specific matter, does it fail to include as its first sentence "If you have already retained a lawyer for this matter, please disregard this letter."
f. Does the written communication appear on anything other than letter-sized paper or appear to resemble legal documents?
g. Does the written communication fail to disclose that a non-lawyer will actually handle the matter, or if the matter will be referred to another non-lawyer or to a law firm if the agent does not intend to handle the matter?
h. Does the written communication which has been prompted by a specific occurrence involving or affecting the intended recipient of the communication or a family member fail to disclose how the agent obtained the information prompting the communication?
i. Does the written communication which has been prompted by a specific occurrence affecting the intended recipient disclose the nature of the legal problem on the outside of the envelope or self-mailing brochure?
A growing number of Florida businesses, lawyers and law firms are establishing a presence on the Internet. The FHS Standing Committee on Advertising has established some basic guidelines governing information that a business or law firm makes available about itself via the Internet or other computer-based technology.
The guidelines have been divided into two categories: (1) Homepage and (2) Information Beyond the Homepage. The Committee has determined that ONLY THE HOMEPAGE must be filed for review. See "IMPORTANT NOTES" (below) for filing exemptions.
The guidelines set forth by the Committee are as follows:
• The homepage is defined as the first page of a lawyer or law firm's web site. Generally, it is considered to be the introductory page.
• The homepage must comply with the applicable advertising regulations as set forth herein.
• The homepage must include the "disclosure" set forth herein This information may be available online.
• The geographic location of the office in which the agent who will actually perform the services advertised must be disclosed on the homepage by city or town.
• The homepage shall not include statements about the agent or firm that are merely self-laudatory or that describe or characterize the quality of the agent's services.
II. INFORMATION BEYOND THE HOMEPAGE
• Any information on the website beyond the homepage will be treated as information provided to prospective clients at their request. Thus, information beyond or linked to the homepage is NOT required to be filed for review.
• Even though information beyond or linked to the homepage is exempt from the filing requirement, the substantive advertising rules are applicable to the content of the subsequent pages or linked information.
In filing an Internet homepage for review, the agent or firm must submit the following to the Standing Committee on Advertising:
• a hard copy of the homepage;
• the URL (i.e., Internet address); and
• a check for $20 made payable to the company.
Send your filing to: Florida Homestead Services, LLC, 8708 SW 55 ST, Cooper City, FL 33328-4324
• Some homepages are considered EXEMPT from the filing requirement. If a homepage contains no audio or photographs or illustrations, and contains no information other than that outlined herein, the homepage need not be filed for review.
• Please note that this area will continue to be studied, and the Standing Committee on Advertising expressly reserves the right to modify its position regarding these dynamic issues as circumstances develop in order to protect everyone's interests, including that of our clients and agents.
Agreed to and Signed:___________________________________________ _________