Ethical Issues in Advertising for Tax Attorneys
By Kevan P. McLaughlin1
Advertising is a way of life, for attorneys and all types of businesses alike, notwithstanding some institutional resistance from the former. But, before a lawyer decides to freshen up his or her website to boast accomplishments online, launch a billboard campaign, or use a lead generating or referral service, they must be conscious of unique ethical standards specific to tax attorneys.
Most California attorneys will, or at least should, already be familiar with ethical restrictions on advertising and solicitations. California, as with other states, has adopted professional ethical standards that address such activities. More specifically, Rule 1-400 (D) provides in relevant part that advertisements "shall not: (1) Contain any untrue statement; or (2) Contain any matter, or present or arrange any matter in a manner or format which is false, deceptive, or which tends to confuse, deceive, or mislead the public; or (3) Omit to state any fact necessary to make the statements made, in the light of circumstances under which they are made, not misleading to the public; or (4) Fail to indicate clearly, expressly, or by context, that it is a communication or solicitation, as the case may be; or (5) Be transmitted in any manner which involves intrusion, coercion, duress, compulsion, intimidation, threats, or vexatious or harassing conduct."2 This, however, is far from the end of the restrictions imposed on a tax attorney. Instead the law, with varying degrees of overlap, imposes greater ethical considerations on our practice area when it comes to advertising.