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 lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication is false if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law. A misleading communication includes, but is not limited to those that:

(a) omits a fact as a result of which the statement considered as a whole is materially misleading;

(b) is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve;

(c) proclaims results obtained on behalf of clients, such as the amount of a damage award or the lawyer’s record in obtaining favorable verdicts or settlements, without stating that past results afford no guarantee of future results and that every case is different and must be judged on its own merits;

(d) states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law;

(e) compares the quality of a lawyer’s or a law firm’s services with other lawyers’ services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated;

(f) advertises for a specific type of case concerning which the lawyer has neither experience nor competence;

(g) indicates an area of practice in which the lawyer routinely refers matters to other lawyers, without conspicuous identification of such fact;

(h) contains any paid testimonial about, or endorsement of, the lawyer without conspicuous identification of the fact that payments have been made for the testimonial or endorsement;

(i) contains any simulated portrayal of a lawyer, client, victim, scene, or event without conspicuous identification of the fact that it is a simulation;

(j) provides an office address for an office staffed only part time or by appointment only, without conspicuous identification of such fact; (

k) states that legal services are available on a contingent or no-recovery, no-fee basis without stating conspicuously that the client may be responsible for costs or expenses, if that is the case; or

(l) advertises for legal services without identifying the jurisdictions in which the lawyer is licensed to practice.

Rule 7.2 - Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services: Specific Rules

(a) A lawyer may communicate information regarding the lawyer’s services through any media.

(b) A lawyer shall not compensate, give, or promise anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services 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 service plan or a not-for-profit lawyer referral service;

(3) pay for a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.19;

(4) refer clients to another lawyer or a nonlawyer 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; and

(5) give nominal gifts as an expression of appreciation that are neither intended nor reasonably expected to be a form of compensation for recommending a lawyer’s services.

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

(1) the lawyer has been certified as a specialist by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate authority of the state or the District of Columbia or a U.S. Territory or that has been accredited by the American Bar Association; and

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

(d) Any communication made under this Rule must include the name and contact information of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content.

Rule 7.3 - Direct Contact with Prospective Clients

(a) A lawyer shall not by in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact solicit professional employment from a prospective client when a significant motive for the lawyer’s 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 from a prospective client 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 prospective client has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer;

(2) the solicitation involves coercion, duress or harassment;

(3) the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the physical, emotional or mental state of the person is such that the person cannot exercise reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer; or

(4) the lawyer reasonably should know that the person is already represented by another lawyer.

(c) Every written, recorded or electronic communication from a lawyer soliciting professional employment from a prospective client known to be in need of legal services in a particular matter shall include the words “Advertising Material” 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).

(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 or telephone 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. Lawyers who participate in a legal services plan must reasonably assure that the plan sponsors are in compliance with Rules 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3(b). See Rule 8.4(a).

Rule 7.5 - Firm Name and Letterheads

(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates Rule 7.1. A trade name may be used by a lawyer in private practice if it does not imply a connection with a government agency or with a public or charitable legal services organization and is not otherwise in violation of Rule 7.1.

(b) A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name or other professional (e.g., website) designation 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.

(c) 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 substantial period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.

(d) Lawyers may state or imply that they practice in a partnership or other organization only when that is the fact.

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 prevent the client from committing a crime or fraud that is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another and in furtherance of which the client has used or is using the lawyer’s services;

(3) to prevent, mitigate, or rectify substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another that is reasonably certain to result, or has resulted, from the client’s commission of a crime or fraud in furtherance of which the client has used the lawyer’s services;

(4) to secure legal advice about the lawyer’s compliance with these Rules;

(5) 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 concerning the lawyer’s representation of the client;

(6) to comply with other law or a court order; or

(7) to detect and resolve conflicts of interest arising from the lawyer’s change of employment or from changes in the composition or ownership of a firm, but only if the revealed information would not compromise the attorney-client privilege or otherwise prejudice the client.

(c) A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.

*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.