The legal scope of advertising and marketing refers to the laws and regulations set by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defining the ways in which products and services can be marketed and promoted, such as the content, placement, and timing of the message. The three essential laws as established by the Federal Trade Commission Act are: advertising must be honest and non-deceptive; advertisers must have legitimate evidence to support their claims; and advertisements cannot be unfair.
Legal advertising is notice of probate sales and other documents required by law to be published in court-approved local newspapers of a defined minimum circulation. It may also refer to commercials for the legal services of lawyers and law firms, including television spots and ads in telephone books’ yellow pages. Such advertising was prohibited as illegal solicitation of legal services until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that restrictions on advertising professional services violated constitutional protections of free speech.
Legal advertising may be subject to regulation by the rules of the state bar association, which vary by state. The following is an example of a state bar’s advertising rules dealing with prohibited false or misleading statements:
” A false or misleading communication includes but is not limited to that which:
1. contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law; or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading;
2. is intended or is likely to create an unjustified expectation, including expectations concerning the results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law or contains a testimonial about, or endorsement of, the lawyer;
3. compares the lawyer’s services with other lawyers’ services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated;
4. contains information based on past successes without a disclaimer that past successes cannot be an assurance of future success because each case must be decided on its own merits; or
5. states or implies that the lawyer is a specialist in any field of law other than as specifically permitted.”
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