On August 29, 2013, the webinar “Overview of the New Florida Bar Rules with Florida Bar Ethics Counsel Elizabeth Clark Tarbert” was presented to the Legal Marketing Association Southeast Chapter members.

A fellow Coolerite wrote the following recap of one very important point of the presentation, asking that his/her name not be used:

As we all have read over the past few months, Florida Bar Rules of Advertising are quite challenging.  There are two rules discussed today that stood out from today’s presentation:

  • Seminars. Florida law firms are not permitted to pass out firm brochures or any other information at a firm hosted seminar. Instead, the Bar suggests firms just leave the information on a table in the back of the room and have the attendees pick it up, if they choose to do so.  But wait, there’s more. Remember our training and plain ole “good manners” to send a post-seminar thank you letter to attendees?  Not in Florida, the Bar prohibits such letters. Firms can only send a post seminar letter if the attendee asks for additional information. If a firm chooses to send a letter, they must follow the direct mail rule – for ease of reference, see the Bar’s five-page checklist for direct mail.
  • Social media.  Twitter and LinkedIn was discussed. The Bar is still discussing LinkedIn endorsements and will update their website once a ruling comes down.  The Bar rules state that:
    • Any communications that a lawyer makes on an unsolicited basis to prospective clients to obtain “followers” is subject to the lawyer advertising rules, as with any other social media as noted above. Because of Twitter’s 140 character limitation, lawyers may use commonly recognized abbreviations for the required geographic disclosure of a bona fide office location by city, town or county as required by Rule 4-7.12(a).

What does this mean? The lawyer or firm should carefully capture firm (or lawyer) name and geographic location in Twitter handle as all that information needs to appear in 140 characters in every tweet. The guidelines for law firm social networking sites can be found here.

You may also want to read a previous post by our LMA friend, Nancy Myrland, “Legal Advertising Rules – How About That Florida Bar.”

Bottom line:  While we understand the Bar is trying to protect consumers from the “bad guys,” some of these rules are quite challenging and make us scratch our heads and wonder.

My hat is off to all of my colleagues who take on the challenge of marketing in Florida.

My question to those in Florida would be from the first point:

If we host a client seminar in Florida, we cannot hand out our own brochures to the attendees upon arrival. They need to pick them up from a table in the back of the room. What happens when we are sponsoring a program via DRI or ACI, which host numerous legal programs in Florida. Can our brochures be placed in the conference bags? What about a squish ball? Or flash drive with materials?