Participation in Online Group Legal Advertising Using Territorial Exclusivity [2013 Formal Ethics Opinion 10]

Participation in legal advertising services is permitted, as long as the service makes the appropriate disclosures “fully, accurately, and prominently."

View formal ethics opinion in full here.

The facts of this opinion involve a company that maintains a website providing group advertising services to lawyers.  This company owns various domains describing legal services (e.g. bankruptcy, divorce, etc.).  For a fee, a lawyer may obtain a license to advertise her services under one of the company’s domains.  The license is geographically exclusive, as the advertising provider will grant a license to only one attorney per zip code for each advertising domain.  This opinion addresses whether lawyers may participate in such advertising services.

Participation in services such as the one described above is permitted, as long as the service makes the following disclosures “fully, accurately, and prominently:”

  1. The service provides paid group advertising services to lawyers;
  2. The service is not a law firm and cannot provide legal advice;
  3. The service is not a referral service;
  4. The service neither recommends nor endorses a particular lawyer;
  5. The service does not vouch for the qualifications of participating lawyers; and
  6. Each participating lawyer is licensed to use the advertising site and has paid to be the sole lawyer listed for a particular zip code.

The above disclosures are necessary in order to alleviate “any concern about misleading members of the public.”  The disclosures must be truthful, and no fee sharing can occur between participating lawyers and the advertising provider.

If you wish to respond or otherwise offer a guest contribution discussing this formal ethics opinion, please contact the ethics editor at cu***********@em***.edu.

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About Tripp Huffstetler, Senior Staff Writer (57 Articles)
Tripp Huffstetler served as the Senior Ethics Staff Writer for the Campbell Law Observer. He is originally from Cherryville, North Carolina. In 2011, Tripp graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy as well as Political Science. During his undergraduate studies, Tripp spent summers assisting at a practice in his hometown of Cherryville. During law school he interned with the Hon. Kris Bailey, District Court Judge; Judge Paige Phillips, Wake County Magistrate; the Hon. Paul C. Ridgeway, Superior Court Judge; and the Wake County District Attorney's Office. He also assisted a local attorney in drafting a guide to interlocutory appeals, which will be published by the North Carolina Bar Association. Tripp graduated from Campbell Law School in May 2014.
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