The New Jersey Supreme Court's Committee on Attorney Advertising has issued the latest in a string of ethics opinions imposing limitations on the use of the Internet for client development. Opinion 36, issued January 2, 2006, states that lawyers who pays a flat fee for an online listing and receives an exclusive listing for a county for a particular field of practice "must ensure that the listing or advertisement contains a prominently and unmistakably displayed disclaimer, in a presentation at least equal to the largest and most prominent font and type on the site, declaring that "all attorney listings are a paid attorney advertisement, and do not in any way constitute a referral or endorsement by an approved or authorized lawyer referral service."
Usually ethics opinions are presented as sources of direction that fall short of legal authority. But this opinion states that a lawyer "must" ensure that the advertiser provide this specific disclaimer. Some might conclude that this should be the role of the court itself and, if important enough, the court should change its rule to provide such a requirement.
Ohio Opinion 2005-6 advises lawyers that they cannot particiapte in a program entitles "Ask the Expert." The online program, which is advertised on television, enables people to email questions to lawyers. The opinion indicates that DR 5-102(A)(6) prohibits lawyers from claiming special competence or experience and states, "There is no leeway for lawyers to use the term 'expert' in advertising."