DEAR MAM: Are their legal restrictions as what lawyers can claim in an Internet video commercial? I’ve launched a site at http://www.AttorneyVideos.com but would like to know if there are legal quagmires I should be considering as the producer. Thank you, GR, Tampa, FL
DEAR GR: I hate to start my answer with a lawyer-like response, but just a reminder that this is not legal advice, we are not establishing an attorney-client relationship, and you should consult an attorney. Having now disclaimed myself, I have to say that you ask a very interesting and intriguing question. Not to mention an interesting and intriguing entrepreneurial venture in the world of attorney advertising.
To start, I hate to inform you that the rules (and interpretations) will DEFINITELY vary from state to state. Secondly, those states may interpret these videos as pertaining to its web site rules, television advertising rules, and most certainly the general advertising rules. You will probably inform your customers that they should consult with the relevant state bars. Many will likely make an ethics inquiry with the disciplinary board.
Where interpretation gets tricky are in areas like client testimonials (prohibited in about a dozen states), or reenactments and dramatizations (prohibited in many states for TV advertising). The argument will be whether or not you need to comply with TV rules or just web and ad rules. Either way, any videos that might suggest a propensity toward certain results will likely be disallowed. And, of course, I always remind firms in reviewing their marketing “ethics” compliance that just because it is true does not mean you can say it.
In the state where you hang your hat-Florida-they have a pretty tough set of standards. If you review those rules and comply with them, you will probably be good to go in most U.S. states. While my answer might sound scary and restrictive, the reality is that firms are getting away with more and more, with little significant threat from the state overseers.
I do find your endeavor creative. Law firms are always looking for content that stands out on its web site. Many plaintiffs’ firms that I’ve come across would likely find this product intriguing. Thanks for writing. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY