All 50 states govern lawyer advertising through their Rules of Professional Conduct, often known as “ethics rules.” The rules in each state are unique to that state. Therefore, it is imperative that lawyers familiarize themselves with the rules of the states that govern their conduct.

Rule 7.1 - Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services

(a) A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the communication considered as a whole not materially misleading.

(b) The Board of Trustees of the State Bar may formulate and adopt standards as to communications that will be presumed to violate rule 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4 or 7.5. The standards shall only be used as presumptions affecting the burden of proof in disciplinary proceedings involving alleged violations of these rules. “Presumption affecting the burden of proof” means that presumption defined in Evidence Code sections 605 and 606. Such standards formulated and adopted by the Board, as from time to time amended, shall be effective and binding on all lawyers.

Comment

[1] This rule governs all communications of any type whatsoever about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services, including advertising permitted by rule 7.2. A communication includes any message or offer made by or on behalf of a lawyer concerning the availability for professional employment of a lawyer or a lawyer’s law firm* directed to any person.*

[2] A communication that contains an express guarantee or warranty of the result of a particular representation is a false or misleading communication under this rule. (See also Bus. & Prof. Code, § 6157.2, subd. (a).)

[3] This rule prohibits truthful statements that are misleading. A truthful statement is misleading if it omits a fact necessary to make the lawyer’s communication considered as a whole not materially misleading. A truthful statement is also misleading if it is presented in a manner that creates a substantial* likelihood that it will lead a reasonable* person* to formulate a specific conclusion about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services for which there is no reasonable* factual foundation. Any communication that states or implies “no fee without recovery” is also misleading unless the communication also expressly discloses whether or not the client will be liable for costs.

[4] A communication that truthfully reports a lawyer’s achievements on behalf of clients or former clients, or a testimonial about or endorsement of the lawyer, may be misleading if presented so as to lead a reasonable* person* to form an unjustified expectation that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances of each client’s case. Similarly, an unsubstantiated comparison of the lawyer’s services or fees with the services or fees of other lawyers may be misleading if presented with such specificity as would lead a reasonable* person* to conclude that the comparison can be substantiated. An appropriate disclaimer or qualifying language often avoids creating unjustified expectations.

[5] This rule prohibits a lawyer from making a communication that states or implies that the lawyer is able to provide legal services in a language other than English unless the lawyer can actually provide legal services in that language or the communication also states in the language of the communication the employment title of the person* who speaks such language.

[6] Rules 7.1 through 7.5 are not the sole basis for regulating communications concerning a lawyer’s services. (See, e.g., Bus. & Prof. Code, §§ 6150–6159.2, 17000 et. seq.) Other state or federal laws may also apply.

Rule 7.2 - Advertising

(a) Subject to the requirements of rules 7.1 and 7.3, a lawyer may advertise services through any written,* recorded or electronic means of communication, including public media.

(b) A lawyer shall not compensate, promise or give anything of value to a person* for the purpose of recommending or securing the services of the lawyer or the lawyer’s law firm,* except that a lawyer may:

(1) pay the reasonable* costs of advertisements or communications permitted by this rule;

(2) pay the usual charges of a legal services plan or a qualified lawyer referral service. A qualified lawyer referral service is a lawyer referral service established, sponsored and operated in accordance with the State Bar of California’s Minimum Standards for a Lawyer Referral Service in California;

(3) pay for a law practice in accordance with rule 1.17;

(4) refer clients to another lawyer or a nonlawyer professional pursuant to an arrangement not otherwise prohibited under these Rules or the State Bar Act that provides for the other person* to refer clients or customers to the lawyer, if:

(i) the reciprocal referral arrangement is not exclusive; and

(ii) the client is informed of the existence and nature of the arrangement;

(5) offer or give a gift or gratuity to a person* having made a recommendation resulting in the employment of the lawyer or the lawyer’s law firm,* provided that the gift or gratuity was not offered or given in consideration of any promise, agreement, or understanding that such a gift or gratuity would be forthcoming or that referrals would be made or encouraged in the future.

(c) Any communication made pursuant to this rule shall include the name and address of at least one lawyer or law firm* responsible for its content.

Comment

[1] This rule permits public dissemination of accurate information concerning a lawyer and the lawyer’s services, including for example, the lawyer’s name or firm* name, the lawyer’s contact information; the kinds of services the lawyer will undertake; the basis on which the lawyer’s fees are determined, including prices for specific services and payment and credit arrangements; a lawyer’s foreign language ability; names of references and, with their consent, names of clients regularly represented; and other information that might invite the attention of those seeking legal assistance. This rule, however, prohibits the dissemination of false or misleading information, for example, an advertisement that sets forth a specific fee or range of fees for a particular service where, in fact, the lawyer charges or intends to charge a greater fee than that stated in the advertisement.

[2] Neither this rule nor rule 7.3 prohibits communications authorized by law, such as court-approved class action notices.

Paying Others to Recommend a Lawyer

[3] Paragraph (b)(1) permits a lawyer to compensate employees, agents, and vendors who are engaged to provide marketing or client-development services, such as publicists, public-relations personnel, business-development staff, and website designers. See rule 5.3 for the duties of lawyers and law firms* with respect to supervising the conduct of nonlawyers who prepare marketing materials and provide client development services.

[4] Paragraph (b)(4) permits a lawyer to make referrals to another lawyer or nonlawyer professional, in return for the undertaking of that person* to refer clients or customers to the lawyer. Such reciprocal referral arrangements must not interfere with the lawyer’s professional judgment as to making referrals or as to providing substantive legal services. (See rules 2.1 and 5.4(c).) Conflicts of interest created by arrangements made pursuant to paragraph (b)(4) are governed by rule 1.7. A division of fees between or among lawyers not in the same law firm* is governed by rule 1.5.1.

More California Legislative Information:

www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/rules/Rule_7.2-Exec_Summary-Redline.pdf

Rule 7.3 - Solicitation of Clients

(a) A lawyer shall not by in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact solicit professional employment when a significant motive for doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain, unless the person* contacted:

(1) is a lawyer; or

(2) has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.

(b) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment by written,* recorded or electronic communication or by in-person, telephone or real-time electronic contact even when not otherwise prohibited by paragraph (a), if:

(1) the person* being solicited has made known* to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer; or

(2) the solicitation is transmitted in any manner which involves intrusion, coercion, duress or harassment.

(c) Every written,* recorded or electronic communication from a lawyer soliciting professional employment from any person* known* to be in need of legal services in a particular matter shall include the word “Advertisement” or words of similar import on the outside envelope, if any, and at the beginning and ending of any recorded or electronic communication, unless the recipient of the communication is a person* specified in paragraphs (a)(1) or (a)(2), or unless it is apparent from the context that the communication is an advertisement.

(d) Notwithstanding the prohibitions in paragraph (a), a lawyer may participate with a prepaid or group legal service plan operated by an organization not owned or directed by the lawyer that uses in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact to solicit memberships or subscriptions for the plan from persons* who are not known* to need legal services in a particular matter covered by the plan.

(e) As used in this rule, the terms “solicitation” and “solicit” refer to an oral or written* targeted communication initiated by or on behalf of the lawyer that is directed to a specific person* and that offers to provide, or can reasonably* be understood as offering to provide, legal services.

Comment

[1] A lawyer’s communication does not constitute a solicitation if it is directed to the general public, such as through a billboard, an Internet banner advertisement, a website or a television commercial, or if it is in response to a request for information or is automatically generated in response to Internet searches.

[2] Paragraph (a) does not apply to situations in which the lawyer is motivated by considerations other than the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. Therefore, paragraph (a) does not prohibit a lawyer from participating in constitutionally protected activities of bona fide public or charitable legal-service organizations, or bona fide political, social, civic, fraternal, employee or trade organizations whose purposes include providing or recommending legal services to its members or beneficiaries. (See, e.g., In re Primus (1978) 436 U.S. 412 [98 S.Ct. 1893].)

[3] This rule does not prohibit a lawyer from contacting representatives of organizations or groups that may be interested in establishing a bona fide group or prepaid legal plan for their members, insureds, beneficiaries or other third parties for the purpose of informing such entities of the availability of and details concerning the plan or arrangement which the lawyer or lawyer’s firm* is willing to offer.

[4] Lawyers who participate in a legal service plan as permitted under paragraph (d) must comply with rules 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3(b). (See also rules 5.4 and 8.4(a).)

More California Legislative Information:

www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/rules/Rule_7.3-Exec_Summary-Redline.pdf

Rule 7.4 - Communication of Fields of Practice and Specialization

(a) A lawyer shall not state that the lawyer is a certified specialist in a particular field of law, unless:

(1) the lawyer is currently certified as a specialist by the Board of Legal Specialization, or any other entity accredited by the State Bar to designate specialists pursuant to standards adopted by the Board of Trustees; and

(2) the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication.

(b) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), a lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law. A lawyer may also communicate that his or her practice specializes in, is limited to, or is concentrated in a particular field of law, subject to the requirements of rule 7.1.

More California Legislative Information:

http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/rules/Rule_7.4-Exec_Summary-Redline.pdf

Rule 7.5 - Firm Names and Trade Names

(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm* name, trade name or other professional designation that violates rule 7.1.

(b) A lawyer in private practice shall not use a firm* name, trade name or other professional designation that states or implies a relationship with a government agency or with a public or charitable legal services organization, or otherwise violates rule 7.1.

(c) A lawyer shall not state or imply that the lawyer practices in or has a professional relationship with a law firm* or other organization unless that is the fact.

Comment

[1] The term “other professional designation” includes, but is not limited to, logos, letterheads, URLs, and signature blocks.

More California Legislative Information:

http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/rules/Rule_7.5-Exec_Summary-Redline.pdf

Rule 1.6 - Confidential Information of a Client

(a) A lawyer shall not reveal information protected from disclosure by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) unless the client gives informed consent,* or the disclosure is permitted by paragraph (b) of this rule.

(b) A lawyer may, but is not required to, reveal information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) to the extent that the lawyer reasonably believes* the disclosure is necessary to prevent a criminal act that the lawyer reasonably believes* is likely to result in death of, or substantial* bodily harm to, an individual, as provided in paragraph (c).

(c) Before revealing information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) to prevent a criminal act as provided in paragraph (b), a lawyer shall, if reasonable* under the circumstances:

(1) make a good faith effort to persuade the client: (i) not to commit or to continue the criminal act; or (ii) to pursue a course of conduct that will prevent the threatened death or substantial* bodily harm; or do both (i) and (ii); and

(2) inform the client, at an appropriate time, of the lawyer’s ability or decision to reveal information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) as provided in paragraph (b).

(d) In revealing information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) as provided in paragraph (b), the lawyer’s disclosure must be no more than is necessary to prevent the criminal act, given the information known* to the lawyer at the time of the disclosure.

(e) A lawyer who does not reveal information permitted by paragraph (b) does not violate this rule.

Comment

Duty of confidentiality

[1] Paragraph (a) relates to a lawyer’s obligations under Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1), which provides it is a duty of a lawyer: “To maintain inviolate the confidence, and at every peril to himself or herself to preserve the secrets, of his or her client.” A lawyer’s duty to preserve the confidentiality of client information involves public policies of paramount importance. (In Re Jordan (1974) 12 Cal.3d 575, 580 [116 Cal.Rptr. 371].) Preserving the confidentiality of client information contributes to the trust that is the hallmark of the lawyer-client relationship. The client is thereby encouraged to seek legal assistance and to communicate fully and frankly with the lawyer even as to embarrassing or detrimental subjects. The lawyer needs this information to represent the client effectively and, if necessary, to advise the client to refrain from wrongful conduct. Almost without exception, clients come to lawyers in order to determine their rights and what is, in the complex of laws and regulations, deemed to be legal and correct. Based upon experience, lawyers know* that almost all clients follow the advice given, and the law is upheld. Paragraph (a) thus recognizes a fundamental principle in the lawyer-client relationship, that, in the absence of the client’s informed consent,* a lawyer must not reveal information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1). (See, e.g., Commercial Standard Title Co. v. Superior Court (1979) 92 Cal.App.3d 934, 945 [155 Cal.Rptr.393].)

Lawyer-client confidentiality encompasses the lawyer-client privilege, the work-product doctrine and ethical standards of confidentiality

[2] The principle of lawyer-client confidentiality applies to information a lawyer acquires by virtue of the representation, whatever its source, and encompasses matters communicated in confidence by the client, and therefore protected by the lawyer-client privilege, matters protected by the work product doctrine, and matters protected under ethical standards of confidentiality, all as established in law, rule and policy. (See In the Matter of Johnson (Rev. Dept. 2000) 4 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 179; Goldstein v. Lees (1975) 46 Cal.App.3d 614, 621 [120 Cal.Rptr. 253].) The lawyer-client privilege and work-product doctrine apply in judicial and other proceedings in which a lawyer may be called as a witness or be otherwise compelled to produce evidence concerning a client. A lawyer’s ethical duty of confidentiality is not so limited in its scope of protection for the lawyer-client relationship of trust and prevents a lawyer from revealing the client’s information even when not subjected to such compulsion. Thus, a lawyer may not reveal such information except with the informed consent* of the client or as authorized or required by the State Bar Act, these rules, or other law.

Narrow exception to duty of confidentiality under this rule

[3] Notwithstanding the important public policies promoted by lawyers adhering to the core duty of confidentiality, the overriding value of life permits disclosures otherwise prohibited by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1). Paragraph (b) is based on Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(2), which narrowly permits a lawyer to disclose information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) even without client consent. Evidence Code section 956.5, which relates to the evidentiary lawyer-client privilege, sets forth a similar express exception. Although a lawyer is not permitted to reveal information protected by section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) concerning a client’s past, completed criminal acts, the policy favoring the preservation of human life that underlies this exception to the duty of confidentiality and the evidentiary privilege permits disclosure to prevent a future or ongoing criminal act.

Lawyer not subject to discipline for revealing information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) as permitted under this rule

[4] Paragraph (b) reflects a balancing between the interests of preserving client confidentiality and of preventing a criminal act that a lawyer reasonably believes* is likely to result in death or substantial* bodily harm to an individual. A lawyer who reveals information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) as permitted under this rule is not subject to discipline.

No duty to reveal information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1)

[5] Neither Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(2) nor paragraph (b) imposes an affirmative obligation on a lawyer to reveal information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) in order to prevent harm. A lawyer may decide not to reveal such information. Whether a lawyer chooses to reveal information protected by section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) as permitted under this rule is a matter for the individual lawyer to decide, based on all the facts and circumstances, such as those discussed in Comment [6] of this rule.

Whether to reveal information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e) as permitted under paragraph (b)

[6] Disclosure permitted under paragraph (b) is ordinarily a last resort, when no other available action is reasonably* likely to prevent the criminal act. Prior to revealing information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) as permitted by paragraph (b), the lawyer must, if reasonable* under the circumstances, make a good faith effort to persuade the client to take steps to avoid the criminal act or threatened harm. Among the factors to be considered in determining whether to disclose information protected by section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) are the following:

(1) the amount of time that the lawyer has to make a decision about disclosure;

(2) whether the client or a third-party has made similar threats before and whether they have ever acted or attempted to act upon them;

(3) whether the lawyer believes* the lawyer’s efforts to persuade the client or a third person* not to engage in the criminal conduct have or have not been successful;

(4) the extent of adverse effect to the client’s rights under the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and analogous rights and privacy rights under Article I of the Constitution of the State of California that may result from disclosure contemplated by the lawyer;

(5) the extent of other adverse effects to the client that may result from disclosure contemplated by the lawyer; and

(6) the nature and extent of information that must be disclosed to prevent the criminal act or threatened harm.

A lawyer may also consider whether the prospective harm to the victim or victims is imminent in deciding whether to disclose the information protected by section 6068, subdivision (e)(1). However, the imminence of the harm is not a prerequisite to disclosure and a lawyer may disclose the information protected by section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) without waiting until immediately before the harm is likely to occur.

Whether to counsel client or third person* not to commit a criminal act reasonably* likely to result in death or substantial* bodily harm

[7] Paragraph (c)(1) provides that before a lawyer may reveal information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1), the lawyer must, if reasonable* under the circumstances, make a good faith effort to persuade the client not to commit or to continue the criminal act, or to persuade the client to otherwise pursue a course of conduct that will prevent the threatened death or substantial* bodily harm, including persuading the client to take action to prevent a third person* from committing or continuing a criminal act. If necessary, the client may be persuaded to do both. The interests protected by such counseling are the client’s interests in limiting disclosure of information protected by section 6068, subdivision (e) and in taking responsible action to deal with situations attributable to the client. If a client, whether in response to the lawyer’s counseling or otherwise, takes corrective action — such as by ceasing the client’s own criminal act or by dissuading a third person* from committing or continuing a criminal act before harm is caused — the option for permissive disclosure by the lawyer would cease because the threat posed by the criminal act would no longer be present. When the actor is a nonclient or when the act is deliberate or malicious, the lawyer who contemplates making adverse disclosure of protected information may reasonably* conclude that the compelling interests of the lawyer or others in their own personal safety preclude personal contact with the actor. Before counseling an actor who is a nonclient, the lawyer should, if reasonable* under the circumstances, first advise the client of the lawyer’s intended course of action. If a client or another person* has already acted but the intended harm has not yet occurred, the lawyer should consider, if reasonable* under the circumstances, efforts to persuade the client or third person* to warn the victim or consider other appropriate action to prevent the harm. Even when the lawyer has concluded that paragraph (b) does not permit the lawyer to reveal information protected by section 6068, subdivision (e)(1), the lawyer nevertheless is permitted to counsel the client as to why it may be in the client’s best interest to consent to the attorney’s disclosure of that information.

Disclosure of information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) must be no more than is reasonably* necessary to prevent the criminal act

[8] Paragraph (d) requires that disclosure of information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e) as permitted by paragraph (b), when made, must be no more extensive than is necessary to prevent the criminal act. Disclosure should allow access to the information to only those persons* who the lawyer reasonably believes* can act to prevent the harm. Under some circumstances, a lawyer may determine that the best course to pursue is to make an anonymous disclosure to the potential victim or relevant law-enforcement authorities. What particular measures are reasonable* depends on the circumstances known* to the lawyer. Relevant circumstances include the time available, whether the victim might be unaware of the threat, the lawyer’s prior course of dealings with the client, and the extent of the adverse effect on the client that may result from the disclosure contemplated by the lawyer.

Informing client pursuant to paragraph (c)(2) of lawyer’s ability or decision to reveal information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1)

[9] A lawyer is required to keep a client reasonably* informed about significant developments regarding the representation. (See rule 1.4; Bus. & Prof. Code, § 6068, subd. (m).) Paragraph (c)(2), however, recognizes that under certain circumstances, informing a client of the lawyer’s ability or decision to reveal information protected by section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) as permitted in paragraph (b) would likely increase the risk of death or substantial* bodily harm, not only to the originally-intended victims of the criminal act, but also to the client or members of the client’s family, or to the lawyer or the lawyer’s family or associates. Therefore, paragraph (c)(2) requires a lawyer to inform the client of the lawyer’s ability or decision to reveal information protected by section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) as permitted in paragraph (b) only if it is reasonable* to do so under the circumstances. Paragraph (c)(2) further recognizes that the appropriate time for the lawyer to inform the client may vary depending upon the circumstances. (See Comment [10] of this rule.) Among the factors to be considered in determining an appropriate time, if any, to inform a client are:

(1) whether the client is an experienced user of legal services;

(2) the frequency of the lawyer’s contact with the client;

(3) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;

(4) whether the lawyer and client have discussed the lawyer’s duty of confidentiality or any exceptions to that duty;

(5) the likelihood that the client’s matter will involve information within paragraph (b);

(6) the lawyer’s belief,* if applicable, that so informing the client is likely to increase the likelihood that a criminal act likely to result in the death of, or substantial* bodily harm to, an individual; and

(7) the lawyer’s belief,* if applicable, that good faith efforts to persuade a client not to act on a threat have failed. Avoiding a chilling effect on the lawyer-client relationship

[10] The foregoing flexible approach to the lawyer’s informing a client of his or her ability or decision to reveal information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) recognizes the concern that informing a client about limits on confidentiality may have a chilling effect on client communication. (See Comment [1].) To avoid that chilling effect, one lawyer may choose to inform the client of the lawyer’s ability to reveal information protected by section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) as early as the outset of the representation, while another lawyer may choose to inform a client only at a point when that client has imparted information that comes within paragraph (b), or even choose not to inform a client until such time as the lawyer attempts to counsel the client as contemplated in Comment [7]. In each situation, the lawyer will have satisfied the lawyer’s obligation under paragraph (c)(2), and will not be subject to discipline.

Informing client that disclosure has been made; termination of the lawyer-client relationship

[11] When a lawyer has revealed information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e) as permitted in paragraph (b), in all but extraordinary cases the relationship between lawyer and client that is based on trust and confidence will have deteriorated so as to make the lawyer’s representation of the client impossible. Therefore, when the relationship has deteriorated because of the lawyer’s disclosure, the lawyer is required to seek to withdraw from the representation, unless the client has given informed consent* to the lawyer’s continued representation. The lawyer normally must inform the client of the fact of the lawyer’s disclosure. If the lawyer has a compelling interest in not informing the client, such as to protect the lawyer, the lawyer’s family or a third person* from the risk of death or substantial* bodily harm, the lawyer must withdraw from the representation. (See rule 1.16.)

Other consequences of the lawyer’s disclosure

[12] Depending upon the circumstances of a lawyer’s disclosure of information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) as permitted by this rule, there may be other important issues that a lawyer must address. For example, a lawyer who is likely to testify as a witness in a matter involving a client must comply with rule 3.7. Similarly, the lawyer must also consider his or her duties of loyalty and competence. (See rules 1.7 and 1.1.)

Other exceptions to confidentiality under California law

[13] This rule is not intended to augment, diminish, or preclude any other exceptions to the duty to preserve information protected by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) recognized under California law.

More California Legislative Information:

http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/rules/Rule_1.6-Exec_Summary-Redline.pdf

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=BPC&division=3.&title=&part=&chapter=4.&article=9.5

Rule 6157-6159.2 - California Business and Professions Code, Chapter 4, Article 9

BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONS CODE - BPC

DIVISION 3. PROFESSIONS AND VOCATIONS GENERALLY [5000 - 9998.11] ( Heading of Division 3 added by Stats. 1939, Ch. 30. )

CHAPTER 4. Attorneys [6000 - 6243] ( Chapter 4 added by Stats. 1939, Ch. 34. )

ARTICLE 9.5. Legal Advertising [6157 - 6159.2] ( Article 9.5 added by Stats. 1993, Ch. 518, Sec. 1. )

6157. As used in this article, the following definitions apply:

(a) “Licensee” means a licensee in good standing of the State Bar and includes any agent of the licensee and any law firm or law corporation doing business in the State of California.

(b) “Lawyer” means a licensee of the State Bar or a person who is admitted in good standing and eligible to practice before the bar of any United States court or the highest court of the District of Columbia or any state, territory, or insular possession of the United States, or is licensed to practice law in, or is admitted in good standing and eligible to practice before the bar of the highest court of, a foreign country or any political subdivision thereof, and includes any agent of the lawyer, law firm, or law corporation doing business in the state.

(c) “Advertise” or “advertisement” means any communication, disseminated by television or radio, by any print medium, including, but not limited to, newspapers and billboards, or by means of a mailing directed generally to members of the public and not to a specific person, that solicits employment of legal services provided by a licensee, and is directed to the general public and is paid for by, or on the behalf of, an attorney.

(d) “Electronic medium” means television, radio, or computer networks.

(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 659, Sec. 114. (AB 3249) Effective January 1, 2019.)

6157.1. No advertisement shall contain any false, misleading, or deceptive statement or omit to state any fact necessary to make the statements made, in light of circumstances under which they are made, not false, misleading, or deceptive.

(Added by Stats. 1993, Ch. 518, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 1994.)

6157.2. No advertisement shall contain or refer to any of the following:

(a) Any guarantee or warranty regarding the outcome of a legal matter as a result of representation by the licensee.

(b) Statements or symbols stating that the licensee featured in the advertisement can generally obtain immediate cash or quick settlements.

(c) (1) An impersonation of the name, voice, photograph, or electronic image of any person other than the lawyer, directly or implicitly purporting to be that of a lawyer.

(2) An impersonation of the name, voice, photograph, or electronic image of any person, directly or implicitly purporting to be a client of the licensee featured in the advertisement, or a dramatization of events, unless disclosure of the impersonation or dramatization is made in the advertisement.

(3) A spokesperson, including a celebrity spokesperson, unless there is disclosure of the spokesperson’s title.

(d) A statement that a licensee offers representation on a contingent basis unless the statement also advises whether a client will be held responsible for any costs advanced by the licensee when no recovery is obtained on behalf of the client. If the client will not be held responsible for costs, no disclosure is required.

(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 659, Sec. 115. (AB 3249) Effective January 1, 2019.)

6157.3. Any advertisement made on behalf of a licensee, which is not paid for by the licensee, shall disclose any business relationship, past or present, between the licensee and the person paying for the advertisement.

(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 659, Sec. 116. (AB 3249) Effective January 1, 2019.)

6157.4. Any advertisement that is created or disseminated by a lawyer referral service shall disclose whether the attorneys on the organization’s referral list, panel, or system, paid any consideration, other than a proportional share of actual cost, to be included on that list, panel, or system.

(Added by Stats. 1993, Ch. 518, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 1994.)

6157.5. (a) All advertisements published, distributed, or broadcasted by or on behalf of a licensee seeking professional employment for the licensee in providing services relating to immigration or naturalization shall include a statement that he or she is an active licensee of the State Bar, licensed to practice law in this state. If the advertisement seeks employment for a law firm or law corporation employing more than one attorney, the advertisement shall include a statement that all the services relating to immigration and naturalization provided by the firm or corporation shall be provided by an active licensee of the State Bar or by a person under the supervision of an active licensee of the State Bar. This subdivision shall not apply to classified or “yellow pages” listings in a telephone or business directory of three lines or less that state only the name, address, and telephone number of the listed entity.

(b) If the advertisement is in a language other than English, the statement required by subdivision (a) shall be in the same language as the advertisement.

(c) This section shall not apply to licensees employed by public agencies or by nonprofit entities registered with the Secretary of State.

(d) A violation of this section by a licensee shall be cause for discipline by the State Bar.

(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 659, Sec. 117. (AB 3249) Effective January 1, 2019.)

6158. In advertising by electronic media, to comply with Sections 61571.1 and 6157.2, the message as a whole may not be false, misleading, or deceptive, and the message as a whole must be factually substantiated. The message means the effect in combination of the spoken word, sound, background, action, symbols, visual image, or any other technique employed to create the message. Factually substantiated means capable of verification by a credible source.

(Added by Stats. 1994, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. Effective January 1, 1995.)

6158.1. There shall be a rebuttable presumption affecting the burden of producing evidence that the following messages are false, misleading, or deceptive within the meaning of Section 6158:

(a) A message as to the ultimate result of a specific case or cases presented out of context without adequately providing information as to the facts or law giving rise to the result.

(b) The depiction of an event through methods such as the use of displays of injuries, accident scenes, or portrayals of other injurious events which may or may not be accompanied by sound effects and which may give rise to a claim for compensation.

(c) A message referring to or implying money received by or for a client in a particular case or cases, or to potential monetary recovery for a prospective client. A reference to money or monetary recovery includes, but is not limited to, a specific dollar amount, characterization of a sum of money, monetary symbols, or the implication of wealth.

(Added by Stats. 1994, Ch. 711, Sec. 7. Effective January 1, 1995.)

6158.2. The following information shall be presumed to be in compliance with this article for purposes of advertising by electronic media, provided the message as a whole is not false, misleading, or deceptive:

(a) Name, including name of law firm, names of professional associates, addresses, telephone numbers, and the designation “lawyer,” “attorney,” “law firm,” or the like.

(b) Fields of practice, limitation of practice, or specialization.

(c) Fees for routine legal services, subject to the requirements of subdivision (d) of Section 6157.2 and the Rules of Professional Conduct.

(d) Date and place of birth.

(e) Date and place of admission to the bar of state and federal courts.

(f) Schools attended, with dates of graduation, degrees, and other scholastic distinctions.

(g) Public or quasi-public offices.

(h) Military service.

(i) Legal authorship.

(j) Legal teaching positions.

(k) Memberships, offices, and committee assignments in bar associations.

(l) Memberships and offices in legal fraternities and legal societies.

(m) Technical and professional licenses.

(n) Memberships in scientific, technical, and professional associations and societies.

(o) Foreign language ability of the advertising lawyer or a member of lawyer’s firm.

(Added by Stats. 1994, Ch. 711, Sec. 8. Effective January 1, 1995.)

6158.3. In addition to any disclosure required by Section 6157.2, Section 6157.3, and the Rules of Professional Conduct, the following disclosure shall appear in advertising by electronic media. Use of the following disclosure alone may not rebut any presumption created in Section 6158.1. If an advertisement in the electronic media conveys a message portraying a result in a particular case or cases, the advertisement must state, in either an oral or printed communication, either of the following disclosures: The advertisement must adequately disclose the factual and legal circumstances that justify the result portrayed in the message, including the basis for liability and the nature of injury or damage sustained, or the advertisement must state that the result portrayed in the advertisement was dependent on the facts of that case, and that the results will differ if based on different facts.

(Added by Stats. 1994, Ch. 711, Sec. 9. Effective January 1, 1995.)

6158.4. (a) Any person claiming a violation of Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3 may file a complaint with the State Bar that states the name of the advertiser, a description of the advertisement claimed to violate these sections, and that specifically identifies the alleged violation. A copy of the complaint shall be served simultaneously upon the advertiser. The advertiser shall have nine days from the date of service of the complaint to voluntarily withdraw from broadcast the advertisement that is the subject of the complaint. If the advertiser elects to withdraw the advertisement, the advertiser shall notify the State Bar of that fact, and no further action may be taken by the complainant. The advertiser shall provide a copy of the complained of advertisement to the State Bar for review within seven days of service of the complaint. Within 21 days of the delivery of the complained of advertisement, the State Bar shall determine whether substantial evidence of a violation of these sections exists. The review shall be conducted by a State Bar attorney who has expertise in the area of lawyer advertising.

(b) (1) Upon a State Bar determination that substantial evidence of a violation exists, if the licensee or certified lawyer referral service withdraws that advertisement from broadcast within 72 hours, no further action may be taken by the complainant.

(2) Upon a State Bar determination that substantial evidence of a violation exists, if the licensee or certified lawyer referral service fails to withdraw the advertisement within 72 hours, a civil enforcement action brought pursuant to subdivision (e) may be commenced within one year of the State Bar decision. If the licensee or certified lawyer referral service withdraws an advertisement upon a State Bar determination that substantial evidence of a violation exists and subsequently rebroadcasts the same advertisement without a finding by the trier of fact in an action brought pursuant to subdivision (c) or (e) that the advertisement does not violate Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3, a civil enforcement action may be commenced within one year of the rebroadcast.

(3) Upon a determination that substantial evidence of a violation does not exist, the complainant is barred from bringing a civil enforcement action pursuant to subdivision (e), but may bring an action for declaratory relief pursuant to subdivision (c).

(c) Any licensee or certified lawyer referral service who was the subject of a complaint and any complainant affected by the decision of the State Bar may bring an action for declaratory relief in the superior court to obtain a judicial declaration of whether Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3 has been violated, and, if applicable, may also request injunctive relief. Any defense otherwise available at law may be raised for the first time in the declaratory relief action, including any constitutional challenge. Any civil enforcement action filed pursuant to subdivision (e) shall be stayed pending the resolution of the declaratory relief action. The action shall be defended by the real party in interest. The State Bar shall not be considered a party to the action unless it elects to intervene in the action.

(1) Upon a State Bar determination that substantial evidence of a violation exists, if the complainant or the licensee or certified lawyer referral service brings an action for declaratory relief to obtain a judicial declaration of whether the advertisement violates Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3, and the court declares that the advertisement violates one or more of the sections, a civil enforcement action pursuant to subdivision (e) may be filed or maintained if the licensee or certified lawyer referral service failed to withdraw the advertisement within 72 hours of the State Bar determination. The decision of the court that an advertisement violates Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3 shall be binding on the issue of whether the advertisement is unlawful in any pending or prospective civil enforcement action brought pursuant to subdivision (e) if that binding effect is supported by the doctrine of collateral estoppel or res judicata.

If, in that declaratory relief action, the court declares that the advertisement does not violate Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3, the licensee or lawyer referral service may broadcast the advertisement. The decision of the court that an advertisement does not violate Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3 shall bar any pending or prospective civil enforcement action brought pursuant to subdivision (e) if that prohibitive effect is supported by the doctrine of collateral estoppel or res judicata.

(2) If, following a State Bar determination that does not find substantial evidence that an advertisement violates Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3, the complainant or the licensee or certified lawyer referral service brings an action for declaratory relief to obtain a judicial declaration of whether the advertisement violates Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3, and the court declares that the advertisement violates one or more of the sections, a civil enforcement action pursuant to subdivision (e) may be filed or maintained if the licensee or certified lawyer referral service broadcasts the same advertisement following the decision in the declaratory relief action. The decision of the court that an advertisement violates Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3 shall be binding on the issue of whether the advertisement is unlawful in any pending or prospective civil enforcement action brought pursuant to subdivision (e) if that binding effect is supported by the doctrine of collateral estoppel or res judicata.

If, in that declaratory relief action, the court declares that the advertisement does not violate Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3, the licensee or lawyer referral service may continue broadcast of the advertisement. The decision of the court that an advertisement does not violate Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3 shall bar any pending or prospective civil enforcement action brought pursuant to subdivision (e) if that prohibitive effect is supported by the doctrine of collateral estoppel or res judicata.

(d) The State Bar review procedure shall apply only to licensees and certified referral services. A direct civil enforcement action for a violation of Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3 may be maintained against any other advertiser after first giving 14 days’ notice to the advertiser of the alleged violation. If the advertiser does not withdraw from broadcast the advertisement that is the subject of the notice within 14 days of service of the notice, a civil enforcement action pursuant to subdivision (e) may be commenced. The civil enforcement action shall be commenced within one year of the date of the last publication or broadcast of the advertisement that is the subject of the action.

(e) Subject to Section 6158.5, a violation of Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3 shall be cause for a civil enforcement action brought by any person residing within the State of California for an amount up to five thousand dollars ($5,000) for each individual broadcast that violates Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3. Venue shall be in a county where the advertisement was broadcast.

(f) In any civil action brought pursuant to this section, the matter shall be determined according to the law and procedure relating to the trial of civil actions, including trial by jury, if demanded.

(g) The decision of the State Bar pursuant to subdivision (a) shall be admissible in the civil enforcement action brought pursuant to subdivision (e). However, the State Bar shall not be a party or a witness in either a declaratory relief proceeding brought pursuant to subdivision (c) or the civil enforcement action brought pursuant to subdivision (e). Additionally, no direct action may be filed against the State Bar challenging the State Bar’s decision pursuant to subdivision (a).

(h) Amounts recovered pursuant to this section shall be paid into the Client Security Fund maintained by the State Bar.

(i) In any civil action brought pursuant to this section, the court shall award attorney’s fees pursuant to Section 1021.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure if the court finds that the action has resulted in the enforcement of an important public interest or that a significant benefit has been conferred on the public.

(j) The State Bar shall maintain records of all complainants and complaints filed pursuant to subdivision (a) for a period of seven years. If a complainant files five or more unfounded complaints within seven years, the complainant shall be considered a vexatious litigant for purposes of this section. The State Bar shall require any person deemed a vexatious litigant to post security in the minimum amount of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) prior to considering any complaint filed by that person and shall refrain from taking any action until the security is posted. In any civil action arising from this section brought by a person deemed a vexatious litigant, the defendant may advise the court and trier of fact that the plaintiff is deemed to be a vexatious litigant under the provisions of this section and disclose the basis for this determination.

(k) Nothing in this section shall restrict any other right available under existing law or otherwise available to a citizen seeking redress for false, misleading, or deceptive advertisements.

(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 659, Sec. 118. (AB 3249) Effective January 1, 2019.)

6158.5. This article applies to all lawyers, licensees, law partnerships, law corporations, entities subject to regulation under Section 6155, advertising collectives, cooperatives, or other individuals, including nonlawyers, or groups advertising the availability of legal services. Subdivisions (a) to (k), inclusive, of Section 6158.4 do not apply to qualified legal services projects as defined in Article 14 (commencing with Section 6210) and nonprofit lawyer referral services certified under Section 6155. Sections 6157 to 6158.5, inclusive, do not apply to the media in which the advertising is displayed or to an advertising agency that prepares the contents of an advertisement and is not directly involved in the formation or operation of lawyer advertising collectives or cooperatives, referral services, or other groups existing primarily for the purpose of advertising the availability of legal services or making referrals to attorneys.

(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 659, Sec. 119. (AB 3249) Effective January 1, 2019.)

6158.7. A violation of Section 6158, 6158.1, or 6158.3 by a licensee shall be cause for discipline by the State Bar. In addition to the existing grounds for initiating a disciplinary proceeding set forth in a statute or in the Rules of Professional Conduct, the State Bar may commence an investigation based upon a complaint filed by a person pursuant to Section 6158.4. The State Bar’s decision pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 6158.4 shall be admissible, but shall not be determinative, in any disciplinary proceeding brought as a result of that complaint.

(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 659, Sec. 120. (AB 3249) Effective January 1, 2019.)

6159. The court shall report the name, address, and professional license number of any person found in violation of this article to the appropriate professional licensing agency for review and possible disciplinary action.

(Added by renumbering Section 6157.5 by Stats. 1994, Ch. 711, Sec. 13. Effective January 1, 1995.)

6159.1. A true and correct copy of any advertisement made by a person or licensee shall be retained for one year by the person or licensee who pays for an advertisement soliciting employment of legal services.

(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 659, Sec. 121. (AB 3249) Effective January 1, 2019.)

6159.2. (a) Nothing in this article shall be deemed to limit or preclude enforcement of any other provision of law, or of any court rule, or of the State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct.

(b) Nothing in this article shall limit the right of advertising protected under the Constitution of the State of California or of the United States. If any provision of this article is found to violate either Constitution, that provision is severable and the remaining provisions shall be enforceable without the severed provision.

(Added by renumbering Section 6157.7 by Stats. 1994, Ch. 711, Sec. 15. Effective January 1, 1995.)

*This information is provided as a convenience to the viewers of this material. Viewers should conduct their own research or rely on the advice of a lawyer before relying on the information here.