Login | September 18, 2021

New Ohio advisories on online lawyer advertising

Technology for Lawyers

Published: August 6, 2021

The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct recently issued two advisories on online advertising.
The first cautions against purchasing keywords to affect Google ratings; the second clarifies how an attorney may advertise as an expert in a practice area.
Of note is the statement prefacing these opinions that they are “non-binding.”
I would say they are a warning to help from getting a grievance or lawsuit filed against the lawyer who acts against them, but hey—you’re on your own.
Advisory Opinion 2021-04 states that “a lawyer or law firm may not purchase the name of another lawyer or law firm for use in competitive keyword online advertising.”
Google has a hidden way or cranking up advertising dollars by putting their advertisers at war with one another.
Google allows anyone to bid on a keyword.
For a lawyer would usually be something like “divorce” or “OMVI.” The highest bidder gets a higher result in a keyword search.
Well, one questioning attorney raised the issue of lawyer John Smith out bidding lawyer Jane Doe for her own name. Holy mackerel.
Uhhh… so that’s probably unethical? Don’t do that (except with permission). But of course it is a statement on lawyering altogether that anyone had to say anything about that at all.
The second, clarifying, advisory opinion on online advertising is 2021-05, which states: “A lawyer may state or imply that she or he is a specialist in a field of law only if that field of law has been designated as an area of lawyer specialization by the Supreme Court. A communication by a lawyer that he or she is a specialist in a field of law not designed by the Supreme Court is misleading.”
The Ohio Supreme Court has designated 18 areas of law that an attorney may advertise as a specialty of practice.
At the same time, other organizations like the National Board of Trial Advocacy have developed their own specialty areas that may or may not coincide with the Ohio Supreme Court’s.
This Advisory Opinion says: too bad. You can’t advertise a specialty of, say, “truck accident law” if that specialty is not one of the 18.
Again, this opinion is not binding.