Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Competitor Keyword Purchases Violate Attorney Advertising Rules

A Staff Report from the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court

The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct has issued two advisory opinions regarding lawyer advertising.

Advisory Opinion 2021-04 advises lawyers regarding the purchase of keyword online advertising to affect online search results conducted by prospective clients.

A purchase of keywords of a competitor lawyer’s or law firm’s name or keyword will return a list of websites in an Internet search engine that displays the purchasing lawyer’s website above that of the competitor lawyer. The opinion concludes that the purchase of a competitor’s name or keyword is an act intended to deceive a prospective client and is a false, misleading, or nonverifiable communication about the lawyer purchasing the keyword.

The Board additionally concludes that the use by a lawyer of the name of another lawyer, without consent, improperly furthers the purchaser’s own financial and business interests and displays a lack of professional integrity contrary to the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Note: South Carolina reprimanded an attorney for such conduct.

Advisory Opinion 2021-05 addresses whether a lawyer certified as a specialist by a private certifying organization recognized by the Supreme Court may advertise their specialization when the Court has not designated a particular field of law as a specialty. The Court has designated 18 fields of law as specialties that may be advertised by Ohio lawyers.

The Board advises that a lawyer is permitted to advertise a designated specialty under the Rules of Professional Conduct only when the Court, with the advice of its Commission on the Certification of Attorneys as Specialists, has designated the field of law as a specialty.

The Board concludes that the advertisement of a specialization by the lawyer not designated by the Court results in a misleading and improper communication under the Rules of Professional Conduct.

(Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2021/06/competitor-keyword-purchases-violate-attorney-advertising-rules.html

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