Florida Attorneys Scramble to Comply with New Florida Bar Rules for Internet Websites

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The new Florida Bar Rules governing attorney websites have caused a great deal of panic among lawyers in Florida. One web development company, Internet LAVA, offers a possible solution to easily bring attorney websites into compliance with the new rules.

We have been able to help Florida attorneys comply with the new Bar Rules by hiding case results and testimonials from the viewer until they have acknowledged reading the disclaimer.

State Bar regulations for attorney advertising can be confusing for lawyers, especially when it comes to their website. The newly announced Florida Bar Rules have recently caused a great deal of anxiety among Florida lawyers. As of January 1, 2010, the Florida Supreme Court has amended the Bar Rules to require lawyer websites to be governed by the same rules as general advertising.

This ruling affects thousands of attorneys in Florida whose websites are currently out of compliance because they mention past case results, testimonials or contain "laudatory statements." Recognizing this, the Board of Governors voted for a six-month enforcement moratorium to give Florida lawyers until June 1, 2010 to bring their websites into full compliance with the new rules.

Attorneys in Florida are scrambling to find a solution and few are any closer to compliance than they were in January.

The Florida bar rules apply to any website "controlled or sponsored" by the attorney or law firm. Under this new ruling, a lawyer’s website may not contain any of the following:

  • Any reference to a past case results;
  • Any reference to a testimonial from a prior client; or
  • Any self-laudatory statements that compare the lawyer's services with those of other lawyers.

Previously, websites were not considered an “advertisement” but merely a “request for information” so the general advertising rules did not apply. As the Internet became the primary way for attorneys to advertise and market their legal practice, the regulations were amended to restrict the ways in which a lawyer discusses the services they provide.

After the new Florida Bar Rule took effect, the Florida Bar Committee on Advertising set up guidelines for displaying “information upon request zones” on a website. These zones would contain information that is only viewable to the consumer after they have acknowledged a disclaimer. These sections of the website would be considered “information upon request” instead of an “advertisement” so case results, testimonials or laudatory statements can still be viewed but only when the consumer specifically requests the information by acknowledging and agreeing to a disclaimer.

One web development company that focuses on attorney internet marketing, Internet LAVA, has suggested a possible solution using a simple “information toggle disclaimer.” According to Jason Miller, owner of Internet LAVA, "Many consumers want to see specific and verifiable results that the attorney has obtained in a particular type of case. Seeing the case results gives the consumer one more piece of information that they can use when researching different attorneys and law firms. Many attorneys tell me that the first question a client might ask during the initial interview is how many similar cases the attorney has handled and what types of outcomes the attorney has obtained in those cases. The disclaimer gives the consumer important information needed to understand the limited purpose for which those case results are provided."

According to Jason Miller, owner of Internet LAVA, “The "information toggle disclaimer" is really quite simple. Using a basic JavaScript expand and collapse feature, we have been able to help Florida attorneys comply with the new Bar Rules by hiding case results and testimonials from the viewer until they have acknowledged reading the disclaimer.” Jason goes on to say, “One of the biggest advantages to this method is that all of the hidden information is still readable by search engines.“ An example of the “information toggle disclaimer” developed by Internet LAVA can be found at http://www.internetlava.com/BarRules/Florida.aspx.

The "information toggle disclaimer" uses basic Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) code to hide the information from the consumer. After the consumer has read the proper disclaimer, the consumer can click on a button labeled “I Agree" to acknowledge that they have read and understand the disclaimer. After the "I Agree" button is activated, a basic JavaScript command will expand the “information upon request zone” so it is viewable to the consumer. If the consumer clicks on the "I Do Not Agree" button they will be taken back to the homepage of the website.

Other possible technologies to hide the content behind a Florida Bar Rule disclaimer include a "popup" disclaimer. The "popup" disclaimer is less desirable for three reasons. First, consumers are typically wary of any type of disclaimer that automatically pops up on their computer screen. Secondly, a "popup" disclaimer is more difficult for the customer to navigate. Finally, many consumers have "popup" blockers on their computer, which would prevent the disclaimer from showing up and in some cases may prevent the page from loading at all.

The "information toggle disclaimer" may prove to be the best solution because it is easy for the consumer to navigate. Virtually all Internet users browse the Internet with CSS enabled and over 95% of today’s consumers have JavaScript enabled. For the very small percentage of consumers that have JavaScript turned off, the “information upon request zone” will remain hidden.

Internet LAVA is a professional web development and Internet marketing company that is dedicated to the needs of attorneys throughout Florida and the United States. By focusing specifically on lawyer websites, Internet LAVA is able to keep up to date with the latest Bar Rules governing attorney advertising online. Internet LAVA is devoted to continuously monitoring state bar rules and their interpretations and updating their client’s websites accordingly. In addition, Internet LAVA offers cost-effective marketing solutions to legal professionals, including: website design, search engine optimization, social media, video marketing, local search marketing, professional blogs, and content management.

For more information, please visit http://www.internetlava.com


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Jason Miller
Internet LAVA
1 (800) 292-5282
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