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 or use a false, misleading, or nonverifiable 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 statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.

Comment

[1] This rule governs all communications about a lawyer’s services, including advertising permitted by Rule 7.2. Whatever means are used to make known a lawyer’s services, statements about them must be truthful.

[2] Truthful statements that are misleading are also prohibited by this rule. 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 there is 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.

[3] An advertisement that truthfully reports a lawyer’s achievements on behalf of clients or former clients 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. The inclusion of an appropriate disclaimer or qualifying language may preclude a finding that a statement is likely to create unjustified expectations or otherwise mislead the public.

[4] Characterization of rates or fees chargeable by the lawyer or law firm such as “cut-rate,” “lowest,” “giveaway,” “below cost,” “discount,” or “special” is misleading.

[5] See also Rule 8.4(e) for the prohibition against stating or implying an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official or to achieve results by means that violate the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

Comparison to former Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility

Rule 7.1 corresponds to DR 2-101. Rule 7.1 does not contain the prohibitions found in DR 2-101 on client testimonials or self-laudatory claims. However, the rule does retain the DR 2-101 prohibition on unverifiable claims.

In addition, Rule 7.1 contains none of the other directives found in DR 2-101(B), the definition of misleading found in DR 2-101(C) (see comment [2] of Rule 7.1), or the directives found in DR 2-101(D), (E), and (G).

Rule 7.2 - Advertising and Recommendation of Professional Employment

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

(b) A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services except that a lawyer may pay any of the following:

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

(2) the usual charges of a legal service plan;

(3) the usual charges for a nonprofit or lawyer referral service that complies with Rule XVI of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio;

(4) for a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.17.

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

(d) A lawyer shall not seek employment in connection with a matter in which the lawyer or law firm does not intend to participate actively in the representation, but that the lawyer or law firm intends to refer to other counsel. This provision shall not apply to organizations listed in Rules 7.2(b)(2) or (3) or if the advertisement is in furtherance of a transaction permitted by Rule 1.17.

Comment

[1] To assist the public in learning about and obtaining legal services, lawyers should be allowed to make known their services not only through reputation but also through organized information campaigns in the form of advertising. Advertising involves an active quest for clients, contrary to the tradition that a lawyer should not seek clientele. However, the public’s need to know about legal services can be fulfilled in part through advertising. This need is particularly acute in the case of persons of moderate means who have not made extensive use of legal services. The interest in expanding public information about legal services ought to prevail over considerations of tradition. Nevertheless, advertising by lawyers entails the risk of practices that are misleading or overreaching.

[2] This rule permits public dissemination of information concerning a lawyer’s name or firm name, address, email address, website, and telephone number; 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.

[3] Questions of effectiveness and taste in advertising are matters of speculation and subjective judgment. Some jurisdictions have had extensive prohibitions against television and other forms of advertising, advertising going beyond specified facts about a lawyer, or “undignified” advertising. Television, the Internet, and other forms of electronic communication are among the most powerful media for getting information to the public, particularly persons of low and moderate income. Prohibiting television, Internet, or other forms of electronic advertising would impede the flow of information about legal services to many sectors of the public. Limiting the information that may be advertised has a similar effect and assumes that the bar can accurately forecast the kind of information that the public would regard as relevant. But see Rule 7.3(a) for the prohibition against solicitation through a real-time electronic exchange initiated by the lawyer.

[4] Neither this rule nor Rule 7.3 prohibits communications authorized by law, such as notice to members of a class in class action litigation.

Paying Others to Recommend a Lawyer

[5] Except as provided by these rules, lawyers are not permitted to give anything of value to another for recommending the lawyer’s services or channeling professional work in a manner that violates Rule 7.3. A communication contains a recommendation if it endorses or vouches for a lawyer’s credentials, abilities, competence, character, or other professional qualities. A reciprocal referral agreement between lawyers, or between a lawyer and a nonlawyer, is prohibited. Cf. Rule 1.5.

[5A] Division (b)(1) allows a lawyer to pay for advertising and communications permitted by this rule, including the costs of print directory listings, on-line directory listings, newspaper ads, television and radio airtime, domain-name registrations, sponsorship fees, Internet-based advertisements, and group advertising. A lawyer may 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. Moreover, a lawyer may pay others for generating client leads, including Internet-based client leads, provided the lead generator does not recommend the lawyer, any payment to the lead generator is consistent with Rules 1.5 and 5.4, and the lead generator’s communications are consistent with Rule 7.1. To comply with Rule 7.1, a lawyer shall not pay a lead generator that states, implies, or creates a reasonable impression that it is recommending the lawyer, is making the referral without payment from the lawyer, or has analyzed a person’s legal problems when determining which lawyer should receive the referral. See Rules 5.3 and 8.4(a).

[6] A lawyer may pay the usual charges of a legal service plan or a nonprofit or qualified lawyer referral service. A legal service plan is a prepaid or group legal service plan or a similar delivery system that assists people who seek to secure legal representation. A lawyer referral service, on the other hand, is any organization that holds itself out to the public as a lawyer referral service. Such referral services are understood by the public to be consumeroriented organizations that provide unbiased referrals to lawyers with appropriate experience in the subject matter of the representation and afford other client protections, such as complaint procedures or malpractice insurance requirements. Consequently, this rule only permits a lawyer to pay the usual charges of a nonprofit or qualified lawyer referral service. A qualified lawyer referral service is one that is approved pursuant to Rule XVI of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio. Relative to fee sharing, see Rule 5.4(a)(5).

[7] A lawyer who accepts assignments or referrals from a legal service plan or referrals from a lawyer referral service must act reasonably to assure that the activities of the plan or service are compatible with the lawyer’s professional obligations. See Rule 5.3. Legal service plans and lawyer referral services may communicate with the public, but such communication must be in conformity with these rules. Thus, advertising must not be false or misleading, as would be the case if the communications of a group advertising program or a group legal services plan would mislead the public to think that it was a lawyer referral service sponsored by a state agency or bar association. Nor could the lawyer allow in-person, telephonic, or real-time contacts that would violate Rule 7.3.

[8] [RESERVED]

Comparison to former Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility

Rule 7.2(a) directs attention to Rules 7.1 and 7.3, each of which includes or deletes language from the advertising and solicitation rules contained in DR 2-101 through DR 2-104.

The following are provisions of DR 2-101 that have not been included in Rule 7.1, 7.2, or 7.3:

The specific reference to types of fees or descriptions, such as “give-away” or “below cost” found in DR 2-101(A)(5), although Rule 7.1, Comment [4] specifically indicates that these characterizations are misleading;

Specific references to media types and words, as set forth in DR 2-101(B)(1) and (2);

Specific reference that brochures or pamphlets can be disclosed to “others” as set forth in DR 2-101(B)(3);

The list of items that were permissible for inclusion in advertising, contained in DR 2-101(D).

Comparison to ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct

Rule 7.2(b)(3) is modified to remove a reference to a qualified legal referral service and substitute a reference to the lawyer referral service provisions contained in Rule XVI of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio. Rule 7.2 does not include Model Rule 7.2(b)(4) and thus prohibits reciprocal referral agreements between two lawyers or between a lawyer and a nonlawyer professional. Rule 7.2(d) is added to incorporate the prohibition contained in DR 2-101(A)(2) relative to soliciting employment where the lawyer does not intend to participate in the matter but instead will refer the matter to other counsel.

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 the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain, unless either of the following applies:

(1) the person contacted is a lawyer;

(2) the person contacted 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 division (a), if any of the following applies:

(1) the person being solicited 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 person to whom the communication is addressed is a minor or an incompetent or that the person’s physical, emotional, or mental state makes it unlikely that the person could exercise reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer.

(c) Unless the recipient of the communication is a person specified in division (a)(1) or (2) of this rule, every written, recorded, or electronic communication from a lawyer soliciting professional employment from anyone whom the lawyer reasonably believes to be in need of legal services in a particular matter shall comply with all of the following:

(1) Disclose accurately and fully the manner in which the lawyer or law firm became aware of the identity and specific legal need of the addressee;

(2) Disclaim or refrain from expressing any predetermined evaluation of the merits of the addressee’s case;

(3) Conspicuously include in its text and on the outside envelope, if any, and at the beginning and ending of any recorded or electronic communication the recital - “ADVERTISING MATERIAL” or “ADVERTISEMENT ONLY.”

(d) Prior to making a communication soliciting professional employment pursuant to division (c) of this rule to a party who has been named as a defendant in a civil action, a lawyer or law firm shall verify that the party has been served with notice of the action filed against that party. Service shall be verified by consulting the docket of the court in which the action was filed to determine whether mail, personal, or residence service has been perfected or whether service by publication has been completed. Division (d) of this rule shall not apply to the solicitation of a debtor regarding representation of the debtor in a potential or actual bankruptcy action.

(e) If a communication soliciting professional employment from anyone is sent within thirty days of an accident or disaster that gives rise to a potential claim for personal injury or wrongful death, the following “Understanding Your Rights” shall be included with the communication.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR RIGHTS

If you have been in an accident, or a family member has been injured or killed in a crash or some other incident, you have many important decisions to make. It is important for you to consider the following:

1. Make and keep records - If your situation involves a motor vehicle crash, regardless of who may be at fault, it is helpful to obtain a copy of the police report, learn the identity of any witnesses, and obtain photographs of the scene, vehicles, and any visible injuries. Keep copies of receipts of all your expenses and medical care related to the incident.

2. You do not have to sign anything - You may not want to give an interview or recorded statement without first consulting with an attorney, because the statement can be used against you. If you may be at fault or have been charged with a traffic or other offense, it may be advisable to consult an attorney right away. However, if you have insurance, your insurance policy probably requires you to cooperate with your insurance company and to provide a statement to the company. If you fail to cooperate with your insurance company, it may void your coverage.

3. Your interests versus interests of insurance company - Your interests and those of the other person’s insurance company are in conflict. Your interests may also be in conflict with your own insurance company. Even if you are not sure who is at fault, you should contact your own insurance company and advise the company of the incident to protect your insurance coverage.

4. There is a time limit to file an insurance claim - Legal rights, including filing a lawsuit, are subject to time limits. You should ask what time limits apply to your claim. You may need to act immediately to protect your rights.

5. Get it in writing - You may want to request that any offer of settlement from anyone be put in writing, including a written explanation of the type of damages which they are willing to cover.

6. Legal assistance may be appropriate - You may consult with an attorney before you sign any document or release of claims. A release may cut off all future rights against others, obligate you to repay past medical bills or disability benefits, or jeopardize future benefits. If your interests conflict with your own insurance company, you always have the right to discuss the matter with an attorney of your choice, which may be at your own expense.

7. How to find an attorney - If you need professional advice about a legal problem but do not know an attorney, you may wish to check with relatives, friends, neighbors, your employer, or co-workers who may be able to recommend an attorney. Your local bar association may have a lawyer referral service that can be found in the Yellow Pages or on the Internet.

8. Check a lawyer’s qualifications - Before hiring any lawyer, you have the right to know the lawyer’s background, training, and experience in dealing with cases similar to yours.

9. How much will it cost? - In deciding whether to hire a particular lawyer, you should discuss, and the lawyer’s written fee agreement should reflect:

a. How is the lawyer to be paid? If you already have a settlement offer, how will that affect a contingent fee arrangement?

b. How are the expenses involved in your case, such as telephone calls, deposition costs, and fees for expert witnesses, to be paid? Will these costs be advanced by the lawyer or charged to you as they are incurred? Since you are obligated to pay all expenses even if you lose your case, how will payment be arranged?

c. Who will handle your case? If the case goes to trial, who will be the trial attorney?

This information is not intended as a complete description of your legal rights, but as a checklist of some of the important issues you should consider.

THE SUPREME COURT OF OHIO, WHICH GOVERNS THE CONDUCT OF LAWYERS IN THE STATE OF OHIO, NEITHER PROMOTES NOR PROHIBITS THE DIRECT SOLICITATION OF PERSONAL INJURY VICTIMS. THE COURT DOES REQUIRE THAT, IF SUCH A SOLICITATION IS MADE, IT MUST INCLUDE THE ABOVE DISCLOSURE.

(f) Notwithstanding the prohibitions in division (a) of this rule, 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.

Comment

[1] A solicitation is a communication initiated by 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. In contrast, a lawyer’s communication typically does not constitute a solicitation if it is (a) directed to the general public, such as through a billboard, an Internet-based advertisement, a web site, or a commercial, (b) in response to a request for information, or (c) automatically generated in response to Internet searches.

[2] There is a potential for abuse when a solicitation involves direct in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact by a lawyer with someone known to need legal services. These forms of contact subject the person to the private importuning of the trained advocate in a direct interpersonal encounter. The person, who may already feel overwhelmed by the circumstances giving rise to the need for legal services, may find it difficult fully to evaluate all available alternatives with reasoned judgment and appropriate self-interest in the face of the lawyer’s presence and insistence upon being retained immediately. The situation is fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, and over-reaching.

[3] This potential for abuse inherent in direct in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic solicitation justifies its prohibition, particularly since a lawyer has alternative means of conveying necessary information to those who may be in need of legal services. Communications can be mailed or transmitted by email or other electronic means that do not involve real-time contact and do not violate other laws governing solicitations. These forms of communication make it possible for the public to be informed about the need for legal services, and about the qualifications of available lawyers and law firms, without subjecting the public to direct in-person, telephone, or real-time electronic persuasion that may overwhelm the person’s judgment. In using any telephone or other electronic communication, a lawyer remains subject to all applicable state and federal telemarketing laws and regulations.

[4] The use of general advertising and written, recorded, or electronic communications to transmit information from lawyer to the public, rather than direct in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact, will help to ensure that the information flows cleanly as well as freely. The contents of advertisements and communications permitted under Rule 7.2 can be permanently recorded so that they cannot be disputed and may be shared with others who know the lawyer. This potential for informal review is itself likely to help guard against statements and claims that might constitute false and misleading communications, in violation of Rule 7.1. The contents of direct in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact can be disputed and may not be subject to third-party scrutiny. Consequently, they are much more likely to approach, and occasionally cross, the dividing line between accurate representations and those that are false and misleading.

[5] There is far less likelihood that a lawyer would engage in abusive practices against a former client, a person with whom the lawyer has close personal or family relationship, or in situations in which the lawyer is motivated by considerations other than the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. Nor is there a serious potential for abuse when the person contacted is a lawyer. Consequently, the general prohibition in Rule 7.3(a) and the requirements of Rule 7.3(c) are not applicable in those situations. Also, division (a) is not intended to prohibit a lawyer from participating in constitutionally protected activities of 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 members or beneficiaries.

[6] Even permitted forms of solicitation can be abused. Thus, any solicitation that contains information that is false or misleading within the meaning of Rule 7.1, that involves coercion, duress, or harassment within the meaning of Rule 7.3(b)(2), or that involves contact with someone who has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer within the meaning of Rule 7.3(b)(1) is prohibited. Moreover, if after sending a letter or other communication as permitted by Rule 7.2 the lawyer receives no response, any further effort to communicate with the recipient may violate Rule 7.3(b).

[7] This rule is not intended to prohibit a lawyer from contacting representatives of organizations or groups that may be interested in establishing a 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 that the lawyer or lawyer’s firm is willing to offer. This form of communication is not directed to people who are seeking legal services for themselves. Rather, it is usually addressed to an individual acting in a fiduciary capacity seeking a supplier of legal services for others who may, if they choose, become prospective clients of the lawyer. Under these circumstances, the activity that the lawyer undertakes in communicating with such representatives and the type of information transmitted to the individual are functionally similar to and serve the same purpose as advertising permitted under Rule 7.2.

[8] None of the requirements of Rule 7.3 applies to communications sent in response to requests from clients or others. General announcements by lawyers, including changes in personnel or office location, do not constitute communications soliciting professional employment from a person known to be in need of legal services within the meaning of this rule.

[8A] The use of written, recorded, and electronic communications to solicit persons who have suffered personal injuries or the loss of a loved one can potentially be offensive. Nonetheless, it is recognized that such communications assist potential clients in not only making a meaningful determination about representation, but also can aid potential clients in recognizing issues that may be foreign to them. Accordingly, the information contained in division (e) must be communicated when the solicitation occurs within thirty days of an accident or disaster that gives rise to a potential claim for personal injury or wrongful death.

[9] Division (f) of this rule permits a lawyer to participate with an organization that uses personal contact to solicit members for its group or prepaid legal service plan, provided that the personal contact is not undertaken by any lawyer who would be a provider of legal services through the plan. The organization must not be owned or directed, whether as manager or otherwise, by any lawyer or law firm that participates in the plan. For example, division (f) would not permit a lawyer to create an organization controlled directly or indirectly by the lawyer and use the organization for the in-person or telephone solicitation of legal employment of the lawyer through memberships in the plan or otherwise. The communication permitted by these organizations also must not be directed to a person known to need legal services in a particular matter, but is to be designed to inform potential plan members generally of another means of affordable legal services. Lawyers who participate in a legal service plan must reasonably ensure that the plan sponsors are in compliance with Rules 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3(b). See Rule 8.4(a).

Comparison to former Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility

Rule 7.3 embraces the provisions of DR 2-104(A), DR 2-101(F) and DR 2-101(H), with modifications.

At division (c), the rule broadens the types of communications that are permitted by authorizing the use of recorded telephone messages and electronic communication via the Internet. Further, in keeping with the new methods of communication that are authorized, the provisions of DR 2-101(F) regarding disclosures are incorporated and modified to apply to all forms of permissible direct solicitations.

The provisions of DR 2-101(F)(2) have been incorporated in division (c) and modified to reduce the micromanagement of lawyer contact, which previously had been the subject of abuse, by requiring that the disclaimers “ADVERTISEMENT ONLY” and “ADVERTISING MATERIAL” be “conspicuously” displayed. The requirements contained in DR 2-101(F)(2)(b) regarding disclaimers of prior acquaintance or contact with the addressee and avoidance of personalization have not been retained.

The provisions of DR 2-101(F)(4) [pre-service solicitation of defendants in civil actions] have been inserted as a new division (d), and the provisions of DR 2-101(H) [solicitation of accident or disaster victims] have been inserted as a new division (e).

Comparison to ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct

Rule 7.3 contains the following substantive changes to Model Rule 7.3:

With the modifications discussed above, the requirements placed upon the lawyer involved in the direct solicitation of prospective clients are more stringent than the requirements contained in division (c) of the Model Rule. Because a lawyer is not likely to have actual knowledge [Rule 1.0(g)] of a prospective client’s need for legal services, the Model Rule standard contained in division (c) is changed to “* * * soliciting professional employment from a prospective client whom the lawyer reasonably believes to be in need of legal services * * *.” See Rule 1.0(j).

Division (d), regarding preservice solicitation of defendants in civil actions, has been inserted.

Division (e), regarding direct solicitation requirements respecting solicitation of accident or disaster victims and their families, has been inserted.

Added to the rule is Comment [7A], which discusses the rationale for inclusion of the new division (e).

Rule 7.4 - Communication of Fields of Practice and Specialization

(a) A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law or limits his or her practice to or concentrates in particular fields of law.

(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 engaged in trademark practice may use the designation “Trademarks,” “Trademark Attorney,” or a substantially similar designation.

(d) A lawyer engaged in Admiralty practice may use the designation “Admiralty,” “Proctor in Admiralty,” or a substantially similar designation.

(e) A lawyer shall not state or imply that a lawyer is a specialist in a particular field of law, unless both of the following apply:

(1) the lawyer has been certified as a specialist by an organization approved by the Supreme Court Commission on Certification of Attorneys as Specialists; (2) the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication.

Comment

[1] Division (a) of this rule permits a lawyer to indicate areas of practice in communications about the lawyer’s services. If a lawyer practices only in certain fields, or will not accept matters except in a specified field or fields, the lawyer is permitted to so indicate.

[2] Divisions (b) and (c) recognize the long-established policy of the Patent and Trademark Office for the designation of lawyers practicing before the office. Division (d) recognizes that designation of Admiralty practice has a long historical tradition associated with maritime commerce and the federal courts.

[3] Division (e) permits a lawyer to state that the lawyer is a specialist in a field of law if such certification is granted by an organization approved by the Supreme Court Commission on Certification of Attorneys as Specialists. Certification signifies that an objective entity has recognized an advanced degree of knowledge and experience in the specialty area greater than is suggested by general licensure to practice law. Certifying organizations may be expected to apply standards of experience, knowledge, and proficiency to ensure that a lawyer’s recognition as a specialist is meaningful and reliable. In order to ensure that consumers can obtain access to useful information about an organization granting certification, the name of the certifying organization must be included in any communication regarding the certification. Comparison to former Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility

[4] Rule 7.4 is comparable to DR 2-105 except that it permits a lawyer to state that he or she is a “specialist,” practices a “specialty,” or “specializes in” particular fields, subject to the “false and misleading” standard contained in Rule 7.1.

Comparison to ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct

Rule 7.4(a) is modified to include the existing ability of a lawyer to indicate that the lawyer’s practice is limited to or concentrates in particular fields of law. Division (c) is added from DR 2-105(A)(1) and the remaining divisions are relettered.

Rule 7.5 - Firm Names and Letterheads

(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates Rule 7.1. A lawyer in private practice shall not practice under a trade name, a name that is misleading as to the identity of the lawyer or lawyers practicing under the name, or a firm name containing names other than those of one or more of the lawyers in the firm, except that the name of a professional corporation or association, legal clinic, limited liability company, or limited liability partnership shall contain symbols indicating the nature of the organization as required by Gov. Bar R. III. If otherwise lawful, a firm may use as, or continue to include in, its name the name or names of one or more deceased or retired members of the firm or of a predecessor firm in a continuing line of succession.

(b) A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction that lists attorneys associated with the firm shall indicate the jurisdictional limitations on those not licensed to practice in Ohio.

(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.

Comment

[1] A firm may be designated by the names of all or some of its members or by the names of deceased members where there has been a continuing succession in the firm’s identity. The letterhead of a law firm may give the names and dates of predecessor firms in a continuing line of succession. A lawyer or law firm may also be designated by a distinctive website address or comparable professional designation. It may be observed that any firm name including the name of a deceased partner is, strictly speaking, a trade name. The use of such names to designate law firms has proven a useful means of identification. However, it is misleading to use the name of a lawyer not associated with the firm or a predecessor of the firm or the name of a nonlawyer.

[2] With regard to division (d), lawyers sharing office facilities, but who are not in fact associated with each other in a law firm, may not denominate themselves as, for example, “Smith and Jones,” for that title suggests that they are practicing law together in a firm. The use of a disclaimer such as “not a partnership” or “an association of sole practitioners” does not render the name or designation permissible.

[3] A lawyer may be designated “Of Counsel” if the lawyer has a continuing relationship with a lawyer or law firm, other than as a partner or associate.

[4] A legal clinic operated by one or more lawyers may be organized by the lawyer or lawyers for the purpose of providing standardized and multiple legal services. The name of the law office shall consist only of the names of one or more of the active lawyers in the organization, and may include the phrase “legal clinic” or words of similar import. The use of a trade name or geographical or other type of identification or description is prohibited. The name of any active lawyer in the clinic may be retained in the name of the legal clinic after the lawyer’s death, retirement, or inactivity because of age or disability, and the name must otherwise conform to other provisions of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct and the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio. The legal clinic cannot be owned by, and profits or losses cannot be shared with, nonlawyers or lawyers who are not actively engaged in the practice of law in the organization.

Comparison to former Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility

With the exception of DR 2-102(E) and (F), Rule 7.5 is comparable to DR 2-102.

The provisions of DR 2-102(E), which prohibits truthful statements about a lawyer’s actual businesses and professions, are not included in Rule 7.5. The Rules of Professional Conduct should not preclude truthful statements about a lawyer’s professional status, other business pursuits, or degrees.

DR 2-102(F) is an exception to DR 2-102(E) and is unnecessary in light of the decision to not retain DR 2-102(E).

Comment [3] is substantially the same as the Ohio provision on the “of counsel” designation.

Comment [4] addresses the restrictions of DR 2-102(G) relative to operating a “legal clinic” and using the designation “legal clinic.”

Comparison to ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct

Rule 7.5 combines Model Rule 7.5 with DR 2-102, with one exception. Rule 7.5(a) retains the prohibition in DR 2-102(B) that a lawyer shall not practice under a trade name. The Model Rule prohibition extends only to the use of a trade name that implies a connection to a governmental, charitable, or public legal services organization.

Rule 1.6 - Confidentiality of Information

(a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client, including information protected by the attorney-client privilege under applicable law, unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, or the disclosure is permitted by division (b) or required by division (d) of this rule.

(b) A lawyer may reveal information relating to the representation of a client, including information protected by the attorney-client privilege under applicable law, to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary for any of the following purposes:

(1) to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm;

(2) to prevent the commission of a crime by the client or other person;

(3) to mitigate substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another that has resulted from the client’s commission of an illegal or fraudulent act, 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, including any disciplinary matter, concerning the lawyer’s representation of the client;

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

(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 attorneyclient 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 related to the representation of a client.

(d) A lawyer shall reveal information relating to the representation of a client, including information protected by the attorney-client privilege under applicable law, to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to comply with Rule 3.3 or 4.1.

Comment

[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(f) 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.

[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 Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct or other law. See also Scope.

[4] Division (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.

Authorized Disclosure

[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] Permitting lawyers to reveal information relating to the representation of clients may create a chilling effect on the client-lawyer relationship, and discourage clients from revealing confidential information to their lawyers at a time when the clients should be making a full disclosure. 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. Division (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 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] Division (b)(2) recognizes the traditional “future crime” exception, which permits lawyers to reveal the information necessary to prevent the commission of the crime by a client or a third party.

[8] Division (b)(3) addresses the situation in which the lawyer does not learn of the illegal or fraudulent act of a client until after the client has used the lawyer’s services to further it. Although the client no longer has the option of preventing disclosure by refraining from the wrongful conduct [see Rule 4.1], there will be situations in which the loss suffered by the affected person can be mitigated. In such situations, the lawyer may disclose information relating to the representation to the extent necessary to enable the affected persons to mitigate or recoup their losses. Division (b)(3) does not apply when a person is accused of or has committed an illegal or fraudulent act and thereafter employs a lawyer for representation concerning that conduct. In addition, division (b)(3) does not apply to a lawyer who has been engaged by an organizational client to investigate an alleged violation of law by the client or a constituent of the client.

[9] 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, division (b)(4) permits such disclosure because of the importance of a lawyer’s compliance with the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct.

[10] Where a legal claim or disciplinary charge alleges complicity of the lawyer in the conduct of a client or a former client or other misconduct of the lawyer involving representation of the client or a former client, the lawyer may respond to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to establish a defense. 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. Division (b)(5) 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. The right to defend also applies, of course, where a proceeding has been commenced.

[11] A lawyer entitled to a fee is permitted by division (b)(5) 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.

[12] 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, division (b)(6) permits the lawyer to make such disclosures as are necessary to comply with the law.

Detection of Conflicts of Interest

[13] Division (b)(7) recognizes that lawyers in different firms may need to disclose limited information to each other to detect and resolve conflicts of interest, such as when a lawyer is considering an association with another firm, two or more firms are considering a merger, or a lawyer is considering the purchase of a law practice. See Rule 1.17, Comment [7]. Under these circumstances, lawyers and law firms are permitted to disclose limited information, but only once substantive discussions regarding the new relationship have occurred. Any such disclosure should ordinarily include no more than the identity of the persons and entities involved in a matter, a brief summary of the general issues involved, and information about whether the matter has terminated. Even this limited information should be disclosed only to the extent reasonably necessary to detect and resolve conflicts of interest that might arise from the possible new relationship. Moreover, the disclosure of any information is prohibited if it would compromise the attorney-client privilege or otherwise prejudice the client (e.g., the fact that a corporate client is seeking advice on a corporate takeover that has not been publicly announced; that a person has consulted a lawyer about the possibility of a divorce before the person’s intentions are known to the person’s spouse; or that a person has consulted a lawyer about a criminal investigation that has not led to a public charge). Under those circumstances, division (a) prohibits disclosure unless the client or former client gives informed consent. A lawyer’s fiduciary duty to the lawyer’s firm may also govern a lawyer’s conduct when exploring an association with another firm and is beyond the scope of these rules.

[14] Any information disclosed pursuant to division (b)(7) may be used or further disclosed only to the extent necessary to detect and resolve conflicts of interest. Division (b)(7) does not restrict the use of information acquired by means independent of any disclosure pursuant to division (b)(7). Division (b)(7) also does not affect the disclosure of information within a law firm when the disclosure is otherwise authorized, such as when a lawyer in a firm discloses information to another lawyer in the same firm to detect and resolve conflicts of interest that could arise in connection with undertaking a new representation. See Comment [5].

[15] 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, division (b)(6) permits the lawyer to comply with the court’s order.

[16] Division (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. 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. Before making a disclosure under division (b)(1), (2), or (3), a lawyer for an organization should ordinarily bring the issue of taking suitable action to higher authority within the organization, including, if warranted by the circumstances, to the highest authority that can act on behalf of the organization as determined by applicable law.

[17] Division (b) permits but does not require the disclosure of information relating to a client’s representation to accomplish the purposes specified in divisions (b)(1) through (b)(6). 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 division (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 division (b). See Rules 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.

Acting Competently to Preserve Confidentiality

[18] Division (c) requires a lawyer to act competently to safeguard information relating to the representation of a client against unauthorized access by third parties and 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. The unauthorized access to or the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of information related to the representation of a client does not constitute a violation of division (c) if the lawyer has made reasonable efforts to prevent the access or disclosure. Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of the lawyer’s efforts include, but are not limited to, the sensitivity of the information, the likelihood of disclosure if additional safeguards are not employed, the cost of employing additional safeguards, the difficulty of implementing the safeguards, and the extent to which the safeguards adversely affect the lawyer’s ability to represent clients (e.g., by making a device or important piece of software excessively difficult to use). A client may require the lawyer to implement special security measures not required by this rule or may give informed consent to forego security measures that would otherwise be required by this rule. Whether a lawyer may be required to take additional steps to safeguard a client’s information in order to comply with other law, such as state or federal laws that govern data privacy or that impose specific notification requirements upon the loss of or unauthorized access to electronic information is beyond the scope of these rules. For a lawyer’s duties when sharing information with nonlawyers outside the lawyer’s own firm see Rule 5.3, Comments [3] and [4].

[19] 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. Whether a lawyer may be required to take additional steps in order to comply with other law, such as state and federal laws governing data privacy, is beyond the scope of these rules.

Former Client

[20] 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.

Comparison to former Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility

Rule 1.6 replaces Canon 4 (A Lawyer Should Preserve the Confidences and Secrets of a Client), including DR 4-101 (Preservation of Confidences and Secrets of a Client) and ECs 4-1 to 4-6 of the Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility.

Rule 1.6(a) generally corresponds to DR 4-101(A) by protecting the confidences and secrets of a client under the rubric of “information relating to the representation.” To clarify that this includes privileged information, the rule is amended to add the phrase, “including information protected by the attorney-client privilege under applicable law.” Rule 1.6(a) also corresponds to DR 4-101(B) by prohibiting the lawyer from revealing such information. Use of client information is governed by Rule 1.8(b).

Rule 1.6(a) further corresponds to DR 4-101(C)(1) by exempting disclosures where the client gives “informed consent,” including situations where disclosure is “impliedly authorized” by the client’s informed consent.

Rule 1.6(b) addresses the exceptions to confidentiality and generally corresponds to DR 4-101(C)(2) to (4). Rule 1.6(b)(1) is new and has no comparable Code provision. Rule 1.6(b)(2) is the future crime exception and corresponds to DR 4-101(C)(3), with the addition of “or other person” from the Model Rule. Rule 1.6(b)(3) expands on the provisions of DR 7-102(B)(1) by permitting disclosure of information related to the representation of a client, including privileged information, to mitigate substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another that has been caused by the client’s illegal or fraudulent act and the client has used the lawyer’s services to further the commission of the illegal or fraudulent act.

Rule 1.6(b)(4) is new, and codifies the common practice of lawyers to consult with other lawyers about compliance with these rules. Rule 1.6(b)(5) tracks DR 4-101(C)(4), adding “any disciplinary matter” to clarify the rule’s application in that situation. Rule 1.6(b)(6) is the same as DR 4-101(C)(2).

Rule 1.6(c) makes explicit that other rules create mandatory rather than discretionary disclosure duties. For example, Rules 3.3 and 4.1 correspond to DR 7-102(B), which requires disclosure of client fraud in certain circumstances.

Comparison to ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct

The additions to Rule 1.6(a) are intended to clarify that “information relating to the representation” includes information protected by the attorney-client privilege.

The exceptions to confidentiality in Rule 1.6(b) generally track those found in the Model Rule, although two of Ohio’s exceptions [Rules 1.6(b)(2) and (3)] permit more disclosure than the Model Rule allows.

Rule 1.6(b)(1) is the same as the Model Rule and reflects the policy that threatened death or serious bodily harm, regardless of criminality, create the occasion for a lawyer’s discretionary disclosure. Nineteen jurisdictions have such a provision.

Rule 1.6(b)(2) differs from the Model Rule by maintaining the traditional formulation of the future crime exception currently found in DR 4-101(C)(3), rather than the future crime/fraud provision in Model Rule 1.6(b)(2) that is tied to “substantial injury to the financial interests of another.” Twenty-two jurisdictions, including Ohio, opt for this stand-alone future crime exception. This exception is retained because it mirrors the public policy embodied in the criminal law.

Rule 1.6(b)(3) differs from Model Rule 1.6(b)(3) in two ways: it deletes the words “prevent” and “rectify;” and it allows for disclosure to mitigate the effects of the client’s commission of an illegal (as opposed to criminal) or fraudulent act. The prevention of fraud is deleted from Rule 1.6(b)(3) because it is addressed in Rule 4.1(b). The extension of “criminal” to “illegal” is consistent with the use of the term “illegal” in Rules 1.2(d), 1.16(b), 4.1(b), and 8.4(b), but it is not found in either the Model Rule or Ohio disciplinary rules as an exception to confidentiality. Only two jurisdictions have included illegal conduct as justification for disclosure in Rule 1.6.

Rule 1.6(b)(4) is similar to the Model Rule.

Rule 1.6(b)(5) adds “disciplinary matter” to clarify the application of the exception.

Rule 1.6(c) is substantially the same as Model Rule 1.6(b)(6), except that it clarifies the mandatory disclosure required by other rules.

*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.