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 SCR 3.130(7.01) – Definitions
For the purposes of Rule 7, the following definitions shall apply:
(1) “Advertise” or “advertisement” means to furnish any information or communication containing a lawyer’s name or other identifying information, and an “advertisement” is any information containing a lawyer’s name or other identifying information; except the following:
(a) a professional card of a lawyer;
(b) a public service announcement identifying the sponsor as a lawyer or law firm, by name, address(es), telephone number(s), but no other information;
(c) a sign on or near the law office and in the building directory identifying the law office.
(2) “Legal Services” means the practice of law as defined in 3.020.
(3) “Commission” when used in 3.130(7) means Attorneys’ Advertising Commission.
Rule SCR 3.130(7.10) – Communications concerning a lawyer’s service
A lawyer shall not make a false, deceptive or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s service. A communication is false or misleading jf it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.
Rule SCR 3.130(7.15) – Advertising of fees
A lawyer who advertises a fee for routine services and accepts the employment must perform such services for the amount advertised. Upon request, a detailed description of what services are included in the “routine services” must be supplied to the Commission and to each prospective client.
Rule SCR 3.130(7.20) – Advertising
(1) Subject to the requirements of Rules 4.5 and 7.10, a lawyer may advertise legal services through written, recorded or electronic communications, including public media.
(2) A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a non-lawyer for recommending the lawyer’s services except that a lawyer may:
(a) Pay the reasonable cost of advertising or communication permitted by this Rule;
(b) Pay the usual charges of a legal service plan or a not-for-profit lawyer referral service;
(c) Pay for a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.17; and
(d) Refer clients to another lawyer or a non-lawyer professional pursuant to an agreement not otherwise prohibited under these Rules that provides for the other person to refer clients or customers to the lawyer, if
(i) The reciprocal referral agreement is not exclusive, and
(ii) The client is informed of the existence and nature of the agreement.
(3) Any communication made pursuant to these Rules shall include: the name and office address of at least 1 lawyer or the name of a law firm. The lawyer or lawyers in Kentucky shall be responsible for the content of the advertisement.
(4) Communication by a lawyer with a person or entity with whom that lawyer has an immediate family or current attorney-client relationship, or a communication in response to an inquiry from any person or entity seeking information, shall be exempt from the provisions of the Advertising Rules and the Advertising Regulations, with the exception of 3.130 (7.10).
(5) If a lawyer or a law firm advertises legal services and a lawyer’s name or image is used to present the advertisement, the lawyer must be the lawyer who will actually perform the service advertised unless the advertisement prominently discloses that the service may be performed by other lawyers. If the lawyer whose name or image is used is not licensed to perform the services in Kentucky, such fact shall be disclosed in the advertisement. If the advertising lawyer or firm is advertising for clients for the purpose of referring the client to another lawyer or firm, that fact must be disclosed prominently in the advertisement.
(6) The lawyer shall retain a copy or recording of all advertisements utilized by the lawyer, as well as a record of when and where it was used, for 2 years after its last dissemination. Electronic retention is permitted if in PDF format, or such other formats as the Commission may designate by regulation. In the event of the pendency of any disciplinary action before the Inquiry Commission, Board of Governors or Court, the lawyer shall continue to retain a copy until the termination of that proceeding.
Rule SCR 3.130(7.40) – Communication of fields of practice
(1) A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law.
(2) A lawyer admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office may use the designation “Patent Lawyer” or a substantially similar designation.
(3) A lawyer engaged in admiralty practice may use the designation “Admiralty”, “Proctor in Admiralty”, or Substantially similar designation.
(4) A lawyer shall not state or imply that a lawyer is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law, unless:
(a) the lawyer has been certified as a specialist by an organization which has been approved by an appropriate state authority or that has been accredited by the American Bar Association;
(b) the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication; and
(c) the communication occurs only for as long as the lawyer remains so certified and in good standing.
Rule SCR 3.130(7.50) – Firm names and letterheads
(1) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead, or other professional designation that violates Rule 7.10.
(2) A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name in each jurisdiction, but identification of the lawyers in an office of the firm shall indicate the jurisdictional limitations on those not licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the office is located.
(3) The name of a lawyer holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.
(4) Lawyers may state or imply that they practice in a legal entity only if that is the fact.
(5) The name of a lawyer who is suspended by the Supreme Court from the practice of law may not be used by the law firm in any manner until the lawyer is reinstated. A lawyer who has been permanently disbarred shall not be included in a firm name, letterhead, or any other professional designation, or advertisement.
Rule SCR 3.130(4.5) – Solicitation of clients
(1) No lawyer shall directly or through another person by in person, live telephone, or real-time electronic means, solicit professional employment when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain, unless:
(a) the person contacted is a lawyer;
(b) the person contacted has an immediate family relationship, or prior attorney-client relationship with the lawyer; or
(c) the lawyer is advocating a public interest issue and is not significantly motivated by the lawyer’s pecuniary gain.
This Rule shall not prohibit response to inquiries initiated by persons who may become prospective clients at the time of any other incidental contact not designed or intended by the lawyer to solicit employment.
(2) No lawyer shall solicit professional employment by written, recorded, or electronic communication or by in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact even when not otherwise prohibited by paragraph (1) if:
(a) the target of the solicitation has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer; or
(b) the solicitation involves coercion, duress or harassment.
(3) Every written, recorded or electronic communication from a lawyer soliciting professional employment from anyone known to be in need of legal services in a particular matter shall include the words “Advertising Material” on the outside of the envelope, if any, or in the subject line if sent as an email, and at the beginning and ending of any recorded or electronic communication, unless the recipient of the communication is a person specified in paragraphs (1)(a) or (1)(b).
(4) Except as provided in paragraph (1), no communication shall be sent to those individuals and related targets of solicitation who have been involved in a disaster as defined in 3.130 (7.60) until 30 days have elapsed from the occurrence of the disaster.
(5) Notwithstanding the prohibitions in paragraph (1), a lawyer may participate with a prepaid or group legal service plan operated by an organization not owned or directed by the lawyer which uses in-person or telephone contact to solicit memberships or subscriptions for the plan from persons who are not known to need legal services in a particular manner covered by the plan.
(6) This Rule shall not prohibit response to inquiries initiated by persons who may become prospective clients at the time of any other incidental contact not designed or intended by the lawyer to solicit employment.
Rule 1.6 – Confidentiality of Information
(a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation or the disclosure is permitted by paragraph (b).
(b) A lawyer may reveal information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary:
(1) to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm;
(2) to secure legal advice about the lawyer’s compliance with these Rules;
(3) to establish a claim or defense on behalf of the lawyer in a controversy between the lawyer and the client, to establish a defense to a criminal charge or civil claim against the lawyer based upon conduct in which the client was involved, or to respond to allegations in any proceeding, including a disciplinary proceeding, concerning the lawyer’s representation of the client; or
(4) to comply with other law or a court order.
Amended by Order 2017-18, eff. 1-1-2018; prior amendment eff. 7-15-09 (Order 200905); adopted by Order 89-1, eff. 1-1-90
Supreme Court Commentary
(1) This Rule governs the disclosure by a lawyer of information relating to the representation of a client during the lawyer’s representation of the client. See Rule 1.18 for the lawyer’s duties with respect to information provided to the lawyer by a prospective client, Rule 1.9(c)(2) for the lawyer’s duty not to reveal information relating to the lawyer’s prior representation of a former client and Rules 1.8(b) and 1.9(c)(1) for the lawyer’s duties with respect to the use of such information to the disadvantage of clients and former clients.
(2) A fundamental principle in the client-lawyer relationship is that, in the absence of the client’s informed consent, the lawyer must not reveal information relating to the representation. See Rule 1.0(e) for the definition of informed consent. This contributes to the trust that is the hallmark of the client-lawyer relationship. The client is thereby encouraged to seek legal assistance and to communicate fully and frankly with the lawyer even as to embarrassing or legally damaging subject matter. 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.
(3) The principle of client-lawyer confidentiality is given effect by related bodies of law: the attorney-client privilege, the work product doctrine and the rule of confidentiality established in professional ethics. The attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine apply in judicial and other proceedings in which a lawyer may be called as a witness or otherwise required to produce evidence concerning a client. The rule of client-lawyer confidentiality applies in situations other than those where evidence is sought from the lawyer through compulsion of law. The confidentiality rule, for example, applies not only to matters communicated in confidence by the client but also to all information relating to the representation, whatever its source. A lawyer may not disclose such information except as authorized or required by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law. See also Scope.
(4) Paragraph (a) prohibits a lawyer from revealing information relating to the representation of a client. This prohibition also applies to disclosures by a lawyer that do not in themselves reveal protected information but could reasonably lead to the discovery of such information by a third person. A lawyer’s use of a hypothetical to discuss issues relating to the representation is permissible so long as there is no reasonable likelihood that the listener will be able to ascertain the identity of the client or the situation involved.
(5) Except to the extent that the client’s instructions or special circumstances limit that authority, a lawyer is impliedly authorized to make disclosures about a client when appropriate in carrying out the representation. In some situations, for example, a lawyer may be impliedly authorized to admit a fact that cannot properly be disputed or, to make a disclosure that facilitates a satisfactory conclusion to a matter. Lawyers in a firm may, in the course of the firm’s practice, disclose to each other information relating to a client of the firm, unless the client has instructed that particular information be confined to specified lawyers.
Disclosure Adverse to Client
(6) Although the public interest is usually best served by a strict rule requiring lawyers to preserve the confidentiality of information relating to the representation of their clients, the confidentiality rule is subject to limited exceptions. Paragraph (b)(1), recognizes the overriding value of life and physical integrity and permits disclosure reasonably necessary to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm. Such harm is reasonably certain to occur if it will be suffered imminently or if there is a present and substantial threat that a person will suffer such harm at a later date if the lawyer fails to take action necessary to eliminate the threat. Thus, a lawyer who knows that a client has accidentally discharged toxic waste into a town’s water supply may reveal this information to the authorities if there is a present and substantial risk that a person who drinks the water will contract a life-threatening or debilitating disease and the lawyer’s disclosure is necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce the number of victims.
(7) A lawyer’s confidentiality obligations do not preclude a lawyer from securing confidential legal advice about the lawyer’s personal responsibility to comply with these Rules. In most situations, disclosing information to secure such advice will be impliedly authorized for the lawyer to carry out the representation. Even when the disclosure is not impliedly authorized, paragraph (b)(2) permits such disclosure because of the importance of a lawyer’s compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct. SCR 3.530, Advisory opinion – informal and formal, authorizes a lawyer to request an advisory opinion from the requester’s Supreme Court District Committee member regarding ethics and unauthorized practice of law questions. The question may be submitted in writing or by telephone using the KBA Ethics Hotline. Communications between the requester and any District Committee member or Ethics Committee member are granted confidentiality by SCR 3.530 and are permitted disclosure by paragraph (b)(2).
(8) Where a legal claim or disciplinary charge alleges complicity of the lawyer in a client’s conduct or other misconduct of the lawyer involving representation of the client, the lawyer may respond to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to establish a defense. The same is true with respect to a claim involving the conduct or representation of a former client. Such a charge can arise in a civil, criminal, disciplinary or other proceeding and can be based on a wrong allegedly committed by the lawyer against the client or on a wrong alleged by a third person, for example, a person claiming to have been defrauded by the lawyer and client acting together. The lawyer’s right to respond arises when an assertion of such complicity has been made. Paragraph (b)(3) does not require the lawyer to await the commencement of an action or proceeding that charges such complicity, so that the defense may be established by responding directly to a third party who has made such an assertion. Lawyers may also report incidents of potential malpractice that have not ripened into a client claim to a lawyer’s liability insurer for legal advice and to comply with policy reporting requirements provided the report is made on a confidential basis and protected by the attorney-client privilege. The right to defend also applies, of course, where a proceeding has been commenced.
(9) A lawyer entitled to a fee is permitted by paragraph (b)(3) to prove the services rendered in an action to collect it. This aspect of the Rule expresses the principle that the beneficiary of a fiduciary relationship may not exploit it to the detriment of the fiduciary.
(10) Other law may require that a lawyer disclose information about a client. Whether such a law supersedes Rule 1.6 is a question of law beyond the scope of these Rules. When disclosure of information relating to the representation appears to be required by other law, the lawyer must discuss the matter with the client to the extent required by Rule 1.4. If, however, the other law supersedes this Rule and requires disclosure, paragraph (b)(4) permits the lawyer to make such disclosures as are necessary to comply with the law.
(11) A lawyer may be ordered to reveal information relating to the representation of a client by a court or by another tribunal or governmental entity claiming authority pursuant to other law to compel the disclosure. Absent informed consent of the client to do otherwise, the lawyer should assert on behalf of the client all nonfrivolous claims that the order is not authorized by other law or that the information sought is protected against disclosure by the attorney-client privilege or other applicable law. In the event of an adverse ruling, the lawyer must consult with the client about the possibility of appeal to the extent required by Rule 1.4. Unless review is sought, however, paragraph (b)(4) permits the lawyer to comply with the court’s order.
(12) Paragraph (b) permits disclosure only to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes the disclosure is necessary to accomplish one of the purposes specified. Where practicable, the lawyer should first seek to persuade the client to take suitable action to obviate the need for disclosure. In any case, a disclosure adverse to the client’s interest should be no greater than the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to accomplish the purpose. If the disclosure will be made in connection with a judicial proceeding, the disclosure should be made in a manner that limits access to the information to the tribunal or other persons having a need to know it and appropriate protective orders or other arrangements should be sought by the lawyer to the fullest extent practicable.
(13) Paragraph (b) permits but does not require the disclosure of information relating to a client’s representation to accomplish the purposes specified in paragraphs (b)(1) through (b)(4). In exercising the discretion conferred by this Rule, the lawyer may consider such factors as the nature of the lawyer’s relationship with the client and with those who might be injured by the client, the lawyer’s own involvement in the transaction and factors that may extenuate the conduct in question. A lawyer’s decision not to disclose as permitted by paragraph (b) does not violate this Rule. Disclosure may be required, however, by other Rules. Some Rules require disclosure only if such disclosure would be permitted by paragraph (b). See Rules 1.2(d), 4.1(b), 8.1 and 8.3. Rule 3.3, on the other hand, requires disclosure in some circumstances regardless of whether such disclosure is permitted by this Rule. See Rule 3.3(c).
Acting Competently to Preserve Confidentiality
(14) A lawyer must act competently to safeguard information relating to the representation of a client against inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure by the lawyer or other persons who are participating in the representation of the client or who are subject to the lawyer’s supervision. See Rules 1.1, 5.1 and 5.3.
(15) When transmitting a communication that includes information relating to the representation of a client, the lawyer must take reasonable precautions to prevent the information from coming into the hands of unintended recipients. This duty, however, does not require that the lawyer use special security measures if the method of communication affords a reasonable expectation of privacy. Special circumstances, however, may warrant special precautions. Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of the lawyer’s expectation of confidentiality include the sensitivity of the information and the extent to which the privacy of the communication is protected by law or by a confidentiality agreement. A client may require the lawyer to implement special security measures not required by this Rule or may give informed consent to the use of a means of communication that would otherwise be prohibited by this Rule.
(16) The duty of confidentiality continues after the client-lawyer relationship has terminated. See Rule 1.9(c)(2). See Rule 1.9(c)(1) for the prohibition against using such information to the disadvantage of the former client.
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