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Final Word on Testimonials

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The Ethics Committee recently adopted a final opinion on the use of testimonials in advertising in 2012 FEO 1.  I think this opinion strikes the right balance and permits the use of client testimonials that describe a client’s satisfaction not only with the lawyer’s services, but also with the result.  The opinion requires that an appropriate and conspicuous disclaimer appear with any testimonial that refers to results, and it prohibits any client endorsements which include statements about specific dollar amounts.  This opinion represents a loosening of the requirements with respect to testimonials in advertising.  Previously, only “soft endorsements,” or testimonials about the attorney’s level of service, attentiveness, responsiveness, etc. could be included in advertisements.  Testimonials describing a client’s satisfaction with the result (“He did a good job”), or the nature of the results (“I was able to get my social security benefits”) had been prohibited.  Now, a lawyer may post these kinds of client comments on their websites and in other forms of advertisement with an appropriate disclaimer.  See, for example, the disclaimer on our testimonials page of our website.  It has been approved by the State Bar.

Another recently proposed opinion, Proposed 2012 FEO 8, which is currently published for comment, states that a lawyer may request that a client post a recommendation or testimonial on  the lawyer’s profile page of a third-party networking site, such as LinkedIn.  In such case, because the attorney has control over the content included (he can accept or reject the client comment), the recommendation or testimonial must comply with Rule 7.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and the testimonial opinion, 2012 FEO 1, cited above.