Kentucky personal injury lawyers know their law firms don’t grow themselves. New and experienced lawyers alike need to network and advertise to reach potential clients. But the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct regulate how personal injury and other attorneys connect with consumers.
It’s critical for lawyers to review Kentucky’s lawyer advertising guidelines. There are many rules and limitations, which underwent substantial changes in 2016. Lawyers should be confident their advertisements adhere to these requirements before disseminating them to the masses. Failing to abide by the rules can lead to disciplinary actions.
KY Lawyer Advertising Rules and Regulations
Supreme Court Rules and the Attorneys’ Advertising Commission (AAC) regulate personal injury lawyers in Kentucky. Supreme Court Rules on advertising are SCR 3.120 (7.01)–(7.60). AAC Advertising Regulations are Adv. Reg. No 1, 4, 5, 9–16
Can Lawyers Advertise?
Yes, SCR 3.130(7.20) allows Kentucky lawyers to advertise their legal services.
Defining an Advertisement
Any communication that contains a lawyer’s name or other identifying information and which makes known the lawyer’s services is an advertisement. It is a broad definition that includes television commercials, radio ads, newspaper ads, billboards, and—most relevant to today’s society—a lot of online content.
Social media content, from tweets to Instagram posts, could be considered advertisements. And even if a social media post might not qualify as an advertisement, personal injury lawyers can protect themselves by treating it as such.
What an Ad Can and Cannot Say
A basic requirement of lawyer advertisements is that a lawyer must include the name and office address of at least one lawyer or the name of the law firm.
Most attorneys focus on one or several particular areas of law. Under SCR 3.130(7.40), a lawyer can say in an ad that they do or do not practice certain areas of law. An attorney can call themselves a personal injury lawyer to communicate their field.
But there are limits to what a lawyer can call themselves. Lawyers should not say or imply that they are certified in an area of law or are a specialist. The only time this is appropriate is if the lawyer has received a certification by an organization that is accredited by the American Bar Association or approved by an appropriate state entity. When a lawyer notes their certification in an ad, they also have to identify the certifying organization.
Make Sure the Ad Is Not Misleading
Under SCR 3.130(7.10), a lawyer cannot make false, deceptive, or misleading communications about themselves or their legal services. A communication is deemed false or misleading if it contains any material misrepresentation of fact or law or if it leaves out information that is necessary to make the statement, as a whole, not misleading.
AAC Adv. Reg. No. 1(B) expands on this rule. Advertisements can’t contain misleading statements about:
- The nature of the legal services;
- The lawyer’s education, employment history, professional experience, or other credentials;
- The law firm’s collective experience in a practice area;
- The identity of the lawyers who will perform the legal services; or
- The location of the office where the services will be performed.
Advertisements also cannot include:
- The appearance of a non-lawyer that suggests or implies they are a lawyer;
- The appearance of an actor that suggests or implies they are one of the lawyer or firm’s actual clients; or
- Any property or object that suggests or implies it was involved in a particular legal matter.
Every sentence must be factually accurate, but simply being true isn’t enough. The content must not lead a reader to draw an inaccurate conclusion either.
Carefully Manage the Viewer’s Expectations
Lawyers should always consider the various conclusions a consumer could draw from the advertisement and do their best to temper expectations. If the ad refers to the recovery of money or defending against a claim for compensation, it has to include an appropriate explanation of the legal requirements for that recovery or defense. An ad should never state or imply that a lawyer can obtain satisfactory results regardless of the merits of the client’s legal matter.
You cannot create unjustified expectations or unsubstantiated comparisons. For example, a statement regarding a damage award in a specific case might create an unjustified expectation unless the lawyer includes the specific factual and legal circumstances of that matter. But a testimonial that talks about the quality of the legal services, in general, typically doesn’t create unjustified expectations.
Also, a lawyer should not say or imply that they have a unique amount of prior success that is more than other lawyers or firms unless that information can be substantiated.
Don’t Ignore Fees and Court Costs
A potential mistake in lawyer advertisements is not addressing attorney fees and court costs. If an ad uses language that states or implies the client doesn’t owe a fee unless there is a financial recovery, then the ad must include language that the client may be responsible for court costs and other case expenses.
Be Mindful of Including a Photo
When a specific lawyer’s image or name is used in an advertisement, that lawyer has to perform the service advertised unless the ad prominently discloses that other attorneys might perform the service (SCR 3.130(7.20)).
Solo practitioners might feel comfortable using their image in advertisements because they are the only ones to perform the services. But firms with multiple lawyers must be mindful about including individual lawyer’s names and images.
Keep Copies of Your Advertisements
Lawyers must keep copies or recordings of advertisements for at least 2 years after publishing the ads. PDFs and electronic formats are generally permitted.
Aren’t Sure About an Ad? Ask for an Opinion
Kentucky lawyers can ask for an advisory opinion from the AAC for a fee. The AAC will offer an opinion about whether the ad complies with the rules and regulations within 30 days (60 days during the COVID-19 pandemic).
If the AAC finds the ad doesn’t comply, it will offer recommendations. A lawyer can submit the revised ad without an additional fee. A finding by the AAC that an ad is compliant protects the lawyer from future disciplinary action unless the lawyer is found to have intentionally violated rule SCR 3.130(7.10).
Though there are many rules for lawyer advertisements, personal injury lawyers can publish creative and compelling advertisements for their services.