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 – Advertising
a) A lawyer or law firm shall not use or disseminate or participate in the use or dissemination of any advertisement that:
(1) contains statements or claims that are false, deceptive or misleading; or
(2) violates a Rule.
(b) Subject to the provisions of paragraph (a), an advertisement may include information as to:
(1) legal and nonlegal education, degrees and other scholastic distinctions, dates of admission to any bar; areas of the law in which the lawyer or law firm practices, as authorized by these Rules; public offices and teaching positions held; publications of law related matters authored by the lawyer; memberships in bar associations or other professional societies or organizations, including offices and committee assignments therein; foreign language fluency; and bona fide professional ratings;
(2) names of clients regularly represented, provided that the client has given prior written consent;
(3) bank references; credit arrangements accepted; prepaid or group legal services programs in which the lawyer or law firm participates; nonlegal services provided by the lawyer or law firm or by an entity owned and controlled by the lawyer or law firm; the existence of contractual relationships between the lawyer or law firm and a nonlegal professional or nonlegal professional service firm, to the extent permitted by Rule 5.8, and the nature and extent of services available through those contractual relationships; and
(4) legal fees for initial consultation; contingent fee rates in civil matters when accompanied by a statement disclosing the information required by paragraph (p); range of fees for legal and nonlegal services, provided that there be available to the public free of charge a written statement clearly describing the scope of each advertised service; hourly rates; and fixed fees for specified legal and nonlegal services.
(c) An advertisement shall not:
(1) include a paid endorsement of, or testimonial about, a lawyer or law firm without disclosing that the person is being compensated therefor;
(2) include the portrayal of a fictitious law firm, the use of a fictitious name to refer to lawyers not associated together in a law firm, or otherwise imply that lawyers are associated in a law firm if that is not the case;
(3) use actors to portray a judge, the lawyer, members of the law firm, or clients, or utilize depictions of fictionalized events or scenes, without disclosure of same; or
(4) be made to resemble legal documents.
(d) An advertisement that complies with subdivision (e) of this section may contain the following:
(1) statements that are reasonably likely to create an expectation about results the lawyer can achieve;
(2) statements that compare the lawyer’s services with the services of other lawyers;
(3) testimonials or endorsements of clients, and of former clients; or
(4) statements describing or characterizing the quality of the lawyer’s or law firm’s services.
(e) It is permissible to provide the information set forth in subdivision (d) of this section provided:
(1) its dissemination does not violate subdivision (a) of this section;
(2) it can be factually supported by the lawyer or law firm as of the date on which the advertisement is published or disseminated;
(3) it is accompanied by the following disclaimer: “Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome”; and
(4) in the case of a testimonial or endorsement from a client with respect to a matter still pending, the client gives informed consent confirmed in writing.
(f) Every advertisement other than those appearing in a radio, television or billboard advertisement, in a directory, newspaper, magazine or other periodical (and any web sites related thereto), or made in person pursuant to Rule 7.3(a)(1), shall be labeled “Attorney Advertising” on the first page, or on the home page in the case of a web site. If the communication is in the form of a self-mailing brochure or postcard , the words “Attorney Advertising” shall appear therein. In the case of electronic mail, the subject line shall contain the notation “ATTORNEY ADVERTISING.”
(g) A lawyer or law firm shall not utilize meta tags or other hidden computer codes that, if displayed, would violate these Rules.
(h) All advertisements shall include the name, principal law office address and telephone number of the lawyer or law firm whose services are being offered.
(i) Any words or statements required by this Rule to appear in an advertisement must be clearly legible and capable of being read by the average person, if written, and intelligible if spoken aloud. In the case of a web site, the required words or statements shall appear on the home page.
(j) A lawyer or law firm advertising any fixed fee for specified legal services shall, at the time of fee publication, have available to the public a written statement clearly describing the scope of each advertised service, which statements hall be available to the client at the time of retainer for any such service. Such legal services shall include all those services that are recognized as reasonable and necessary under local custom in the area of practice in the community where the services are performed.
(k) All advertisements shall be pre-approved by the lawyer or law firm, and a copy shall be retained for a period of not less than three years following its initial dissemination. Any advertisement contained in a computer-accessed communication shall be retained for a period of not less than one year. A copy of the contents of any web site covered by this Rule shall be preserved upon the initial publication of the web site, any major web site redesign, or a meaningful and extensive content change, but in no event less frequently than once every 90 days.
(l) If a lawyer or law firm advertises a range of fees or an hourly rate for services, the lawyer or law firm shall not charge more than the fee advertised for such services. If a lawyer or law firm advertises a fixed fee for specified legal services, or performs services described in a fee schedule, the lawyer or law firm shall not charge more than the fixed fee for such stated legal service as set forth in the advertisement or fee schedule, unless the client agrees in writing that the services performed or to be performed were not legal services referred to or implied in the advertisement or in the fee schedule and, further, that a different fee arrangement shall apply to the transaction.
(m)Unless otherwise specified in the advertisement, if a lawyer publishes any fee information authorized under this Rule in a publication that is published more frequently than once per month, the lawyer shall be bound by any representation made therein for a period of not less than 30 days after such publication. If a lawyer publishes any fee information authorized under this Rule in a publication that is published once per month or less frequently, the lawyer shall be bound by any representation made therein until the publication of the succeeding issue. If a lawyer publishes any fee information authorized under this Rule in a publication that has no fixed date for publication of a succeeding issue, the lawyer shall be bound by any representation made therein for a reasonable period of time after publication, but in no event less than 90 days.
(n) Unless otherwise specified, if a lawyer broadcasts any fee information authorized under this Rule, the lawyer shall be bound by any representation made therein for a period of not less than 30 days after such broadcast.
(o) A lawyer shall not compensate or give any thing of value to representatives of the press, radio, television or other communication medium in anticipation of or in return for professional publicity in a news item.
(p) All advertisements that contain information about the fees charged by the lawyer or law firm, including those indicating that in the absence of a recovery no fee will be charged, shall comply with the provisions of Judiciary Law §488(3).
(q) A lawyer may accept employment that results from participation in activities designed to educate the public to recognize legal problems, to make intelligent selection of counsel or to utilize available legal services.
(r) Without affecting the right to accept employment, a lawyer may speak publicly or write for publication on legal topics so long as the lawyer does not undertake to give individual advice.
Rule 7.2 – Payment for Referrals
(a) A lawyer shall not compensate or give anything of value to a person or organization to recommend or obtain employment by a client, or as a reward for having mad e a recommendation resulting in employment by a client, except that:
(1) a lawyer or law firm may refer clients to a nonlegal professional or nonlegal professional service firm pursuant to a contractual relationship with such nonlegal professional or nonlegal professional service firm to provide legal and other professional services on a systematic and continuing basis as permitted by Rule 5.8, provided however that such referral shall not otherwise include any monetary or other tangible consideration or reward for such, or the sharing of legal fees; and
(2) a lawyer may pay the usual and reasonable fees or dues charged by a qualified legal assistance organization or referral fees to another lawyer as permitted by Rule 1.5(g).
(b) A lawyer or the lawyer’s partner or associate or any other affiliated lawyer may be recommended, employed or paid by, or may cooperate with one of the following offices or organizations that promote the use of the lawyer’s services or those of a partner or associate or any other affiliated lawyer, or request one of the following offices or organizations to recommend or promote the use of the lawyer’s services or those of the lawyer’s partner or associate, or any other affiliated lawyer as a private practitioner, if there is no interference with the exercise of independent professional judgment on behalf of the client:
(1) a legal aid office or public defender office:
(i) operated or sponsored by a duly accredited law school;
(ii) operated or sponsored by a bona fide, nonprofit community organization;
(iii)operated or sponsored by a governmental agency; or
(iv) operated, sponsored, or approved by a bar association;
(2) a military legal assistance office;
(3) a lawyer referral service operated, sponsored or approved by a bar association or authorized by law or court rule; or
(4) any bona fide organization that recommends, furnishes or pays for legal services to its members or beneficiaries provided the following conditions are satisfied:
(i) Neither the lawyer, nor the lawyer’s partner, nor associate, nor any other affiliated lawyer nor any nonlawyer, shall have initiated or promoted such organization for the primary purpose of providing financial or other benefit to such lawyer, partner, associate or affiliated lawyer;
(ii) Such organization is not operated for the purpose of procuring legal work or financial benefit for any lawyer as a private practitioner outside of the legal services program of the organization;
(iii) The member or beneficiary to whom the legal services are furnished, and not such organization, is recognized as the client of the lawyer in the matter;
(iv) The legal service plan of such organization provides appropriate relief for any member or beneficiary who asserts a claim that representation by counsel furnished, selected or approved by the organization for the particular matter involved would be unethical, improper or inadequate under the circumstances of the matter involved; and the plan provides an appropriate procedure for seeking such relief;
(v) The lawyer does not know or have cause to know that such organization is in violation of applicable laws, rules of court or other legal requirements that govern its legal service operations; and
(vi) Such organization has filed with the appropriate disciplinary authority, to the extent required by such authority, at least annually a report with respect to its legal service plan, if any, showing its terms, its schedule of benefits, its subscription charges, agreements with counsel and financial results of its legal service activities or, if it
Rule 7.3 – Solicitation and Recommendation of Professional Employment
(a) A lawyer shall not engage in solicitation:
(1) by in-person or telephone contact, or by real-time or interactive computer-accessed communication unless the recipient is a close friend, relative, former client or existing client; or
(2) by any form of communication if:
(i) the communication or contact violates Rule 4.5, Rule 7.1(a), or paragraph (e) of this Rule;
(ii) the recipient has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer;
(iii) the solicitation involves coercion, duress or harassment;
(iv)the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the age or the physical, emotional or mental state of the recipient makes it unlikely that the recipient will be able to exercise reasonable judgment in retaining a lawyer; or
(v) the lawyer intends or expects, but does not disclose, that the legal services necessary to handle the matter competently will be performed primarily by another lawyer who is not affiliated with the soliciting lawyer as a partner, associate or of counsel.
(b) For purposes of this Rule, “solicitation” means any advertisement initiated by or on behalf of a lawyer or law firm that is directed to, or targeted at, a specific recipient or group of recipients, or their family members or legal representatives, the primary purpose of which is the retention of the lawyer or law firm, and a significant motive for which is pecuniary gain. It does not include a proposal or other writing prepared and delivered in response to a specific request.
(c) A solicitation directed to a recipient in this State shall be subject to the following provisions:
(1) A copy of the solicitation shall at the time of its dissemination be filed with the attorney disciplinary committee of the judicial district or judicial department wherein the lawyer or law firm maintains its principal office. Where no such office is maintained, the filing shall be made in the judicial department where the solicitation is targeted. A filing shall consist of:
(i) a copy of the solicitation;
(ii) a transcript of the audio portion of any radio or television solicitation; and
(iii) if the solicitation is in a language other than English, an accurate English-language translation.
(2) Such solicitation shall contain no reference to the fact of filing.
(3) If a solicitation is directed to a predetermined recipient, a list containing the names and addresses of all recipients shall be retained by the lawyer or law firm for a period of not less than three years following the last date of its dissemination.
(4) Solicitations filed pursuant to this subdivision shall be open to public inspection.
(5) The provisions of this paragraph shall not apply to:
(i) a solicitation directed or disseminated to a close friend, relative, or former or existing client;
(ii) a web site maintained by the lawyer or law firm, unless the web site is designed for and directed to or targeted at persons affected by an identifiable actual event or occurrence or by an identifiable prospective defendant; or
(iii) professional cards or other announcements the distribution of which is authorized by Rule 7.5(a).
(d) A written solicitation shall not be sent by a method that requires the recipient to travel to a location other than that at which the recipient ordinarily receives business or personal mail or that requires a signature on the part of the recipient.
(e) No solicitation relating to a specific incident involving potential claims for personal injury or wrongful death shall be disseminated before the 30th day after the date of the incident, unless a filing must be made within 30 days of the incident as a legal prerequisite to the particular claim, in which case no unsolicited communication shall be made before the 15th day after the date of the incident.
(f) Any solicitation made in writing or by computer-accessed communication and directed to a pre-determined recipient, if prompted by a specific occurrence involving or affecting a recipient, shall disclose how the lawyer obtained the identity of the recipient and learned of the recipient’s potential legal need.
(g) If a retainer agreement is provided with any solicitation, the top of each page shall be marked “SAMPLE” in red ink in a type size equal to the largest type size used in the agreement and the words “DO NOT SIGN” shall appear on the client signature line.
(h) Any solicitation covered by this section shall include the name, principal law office address and telephone number of the lawyer or law firm whose services are being offered.
(i) The provisions of this Rule shall apply to a lawyer or members of a law firm not admitted to practice in this State who shall solicit retention by residents of this state.
Rule 7.4 – Identification of Practice and Specialty
(a) A lawyer or law firm may publicly identify one or more areas of law in which the lawyer or the law firm practices, or may state that the practice of the lawyer or law firm is limited to one or more areas of law, provided that the lawyer or law firm shall not state that the lawyer or law firm is a specialist or specializes in a particular field of law, except as provided in Rule 7.4(c).
(b) A lawyer admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office may use the designation “Patent Attorney” or a substantially similar designation.
(c) A lawyer may state that the lawyer has been recognized or certified as a specialist only as follows:
(1) A lawyer who is certified as a specialist in a particular area of law or law practice by a private organization approved for that purpose by the American Bar Association may state the fact of certification if, in conjunction therewith, the certifying organization is identified and the following statement is prominently made: “The [name of the private certifying organization] is not affiliated with any governmental authority.”
(2) A lawyer who is certified as a specialist in a particular area of law or law practice by the authority having jurisdiction over specialization under the laws of another state or territory may state the fact of certification if, in conjunction therewith, the certifying state or territory is identified and the following statement is prominently made: “Certification granted by the [identify state or territory] is not recognized by any governmental authority within the State of New York.”
(3) A statement is prominently made if:
(i) when written, it is clearly legible and capable of being read by the average person, and is in a font size at least two font sizes larger than the largest text used to state the fact of certification; and
(ii) when spoken aloud, it is intelligible to the average person, and is at a cadence no faster, and a level of audibility no lower, than the cadence and level of audibility used to state the fact of certification.
Rule 7.5 – Professional Notices, Letterheads and Names
(a) A lawyer or law firm may use internet web sites, professional cards, professional announcement cards, office signs, letterheads, or similar professional notices or devices, provided the same do not violate these Rules or any statute or court rule.
(b) (1) A lawyer or law firm in private practice shall not practice under:
(i) a false, deceptive or misleading trade name;
(ii) a false, deceptive or misleading domain name; or
(iii) a name that is misleading as to the identity of the lawyer or lawyers practicing under such name.
(2) Specific Guidance Regarding Law Firm Names
(i) Such terms as “legal aid,” “legal service office,” “legal assistance office,” “defender office,” and the like may be used only by bona fide legal assistance organizations.
(ii) A law firm name, trade name or domain name may not include terms “non-profit” or “not-for-profit” unless the firm qualifies for those designations under applicable law.
(iii) A lawyer or law firm in private practice may not include the name of a nonlawyer in its firm name.(iv) The name of a professional corporation shall contain “PC” or such symbols permitted by law.(v) The name of a limited liability company or a limited liability partnership shall contain “LLC” “LLP” or such symbols permitted by law.
(vi) A lawyer or law firm may utilize a telephone number that contains a trade name, domain name, nickname, moniker or motto that does not otherwise violate these rules.
(3) A lawyer or law firm that has a contractual relationship with a nonlegal professional or nonlegal professional service firm pursuant to Rule 5.8 to provide legal and other professional services on a systematic and continuing basis may not include in its name the name of the nonlegal professional service firm or any individual nonlegal professional affiliated therewith.
(4) A lawyer who assumes a judicial, legislative or public executive or administrative post or office shall not permit the lawyer’s name to remain in the name of a law firm or to be used in professional notices of the firm during any significant period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing law as a member of the firm and, during such period, other members of the firm shall not use the lawyer’s name in the firm name or in professional notices of the firm.
(c) Lawyers shall not hold themselves out as having a partnership with one or more other lawyers unless they are in fact partners.
(d) A partnership shall not be formed or continued between or among lawyers licensed in different jurisdictions unless all enumerations of the members and associates in the firm on its letterhead and other permissible listings make clear the jurisdictional limitations of those members and associates of the firm not licensed to practice in all listed jurisdictions; however the same firm name may be used in each jurisdiction.
Rule 1.6 – Confidentiality of Information
(a) A lawyer shall not knowingly reveal confidential information, as defined in this Rule, or use such information to the disadvantage of a client or for the advantage of the lawyer or a third person, unless:
(1) the client gives informed consent, as defined in Rule 1.0(j);
(2) the disclosure is impliedly authorized to advance the best interests of the client and is either reasonable under the circumstances or customary in the professional community; or
(3) the disclosure is permitted by paragraph (b).
“Confidential information” consists of information gained during or relating to the representation of a client, whatever its source, that is (a) protected by the attorney-client privilege, (b) likely to be embarrassing or detrimental to the client if disclosed, or (c) information that the client has requested be kept confidential. “Confidential information” does not ordinarily include (i) a lawyer’s legal knowledge or legal research or (ii) information that is generally known in the local community or in the trade, field or profession to which the information relates.
(b) A lawyer may reveal or use confidential information to the extent that the lawyer reasonably believes necessary:
(1) to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm;
(2) to prevent the client from committing a crime;
(3) to withdraw a written or oral opinion or representation previously given by the lawyer and reasonably believed by the lawyer still to be relied upon by a third person, where the lawyer has discovered that the opinion or representation was based on materially inaccurate information or is being used to further a crime or fraud;
(4) to secure legal advice about compliance with these Rules or other law by the lawyer, another lawyer associated with the lawyer’s firm or the law firm;
(5) (i)to defend the lawyer or the lawyer’s employees and associates against an accusation of wrongful conduct; or
(ii) to establish or collect a fee; or
(6) when permitted or required under these Rules or to comply with other law or court order.
(c) A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure or use of, or unauthorized access to, information protected by Rules 1. 6, 1.9(c), or 1.18(b).
*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.