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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.
A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication is false or misleading if it:
(a) contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading;
(b) is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law; or
(c) compares the lawyer’s services with other lawyers’ services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated; or
(d) contains any paid testimonial about, or paid endorsement of, the lawyer without identifying the fact that payment has been made or, if the testimonial or endorsement is not made by an actual client, without identifying that fact.
Wisconsin Committee Comment
Paragraphs (b) through (d) of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule are not contained in the Model Rule.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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 Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.
A lawyer may not make a material misrepresentation or omit material information relating the lawyer or lawyer’s services [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Ness, 2002 WI 114 (asserting the lawyer was admitted to practice in federal courts and Minnesota when not true, asserting the firm was a national law firm concentrating on federal false claims cases when not true); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Brandt, 2003 WI 138 (advertising that the firm included attorneys when the firm had only one attorney); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Knight, 2008 WI 13 (soliciting clients with letters that stated without qualification that the lawyer had located the addressee’s escheated funds, when the lawyer did not know if the addressee was the correct claimant, omitted a necessary fact and created a false expectation about the results that could be achieved); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Maynard, 2009 WI 106 (sending invoices to clients with the firm’s letterhead and directing them to sent payment to a post office box not associated with the firm constituted false and misleading communications that the payments would go to the firm); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Mandelman, 2014 WI 100 (making false and misleading statements regarding the name and organizational status of the firm); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Maynard, 2014 WI 13 (using firm letterhead while the lawyer was suspended and otherwise communicated that the lawyer was permitted to practice); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Capistrant, 2015 WI 88 (using a letterhead stating the lawyer was authorized to practice in Wisconsin when the lawyer had been suspended); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Schwitzer, 2017 WI 53 (causing the website to identify the firm as an LLC when no LLC existed, and inviting visitors to call for a fee consultation when the lawyer was suspended)].
A misrepresentation may be shown upon notice to the lawyer [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Polich, 2005 WI 36 (having received notice of suspension, the lawyer’s use of letterhead indicating licensure in Wisconsin was per se false and misleading, even though the lawyer may not have been personally aware of his suspension)].
A misrepresentation must be material to violate the rule [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Hupy, 2011 WI 38 (a 35th anniversary sticker on the lawyer’s letterhead was not false and misleading where the lawyer could not establish lineage of more than 30 years because the difference would not have materially influenced a decision whether to hire the firm)].
Creating unjustified expectations
A lawyer’s communications may not create unjustified expectations [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Knight, 2008 WI 13 (soliciting clients with letters that stated without qualification that the lawyer had located the addressee’s escheated funds, when the lawyer did not know if the addressee was the correct claimant, omitted a necessary fact and created a false expectation about the results that could be achieved)].
(a) Subject to the requirements of SCR 20:7.1 and SCR 20:7.3, 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:
(1) pay the reasonable cost of advertisements or communications permitted by this rule;
(2) pay the usual charges of a legal service plan or a not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service. A qualified lawyer referral service is a lawyer referral service that has been approved by an appropriate regulatory authority;
(3) pay for a law practice in accordance with SCR 20:1.17; and
(4) refer clients to another lawyer or 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 arrangement is not exclusive;
(ii) the client gives informed consent;
(iii) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and
(iv) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by SCR 20:1.6.
(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.
Wisconsin Committee Comment
Paragraph (b)(4) differs from the Model Rule by requiring additional safeguards consistent with those found in SCR 20:1.8(f). Lawyers should consider the “fee-splitting” provisions contained in SCR 20:5.4 when considering their obligations under this provision.
 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.
 This Rule permits public dissemination of information concerning a lawyer’s name or firm name, address, email address, webstie, 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.
 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, against advertising going beyond specified facts about a lawyer, or against “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 advertising, therefore, 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 a solicitation through a real-time electronic exchange initiated by the lawyer.
 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
 Except as permitted under paragraphs (b) (1) – (4), lawyers are not permitted to pay others for recommending the lawyer’s services or for 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. Paragraph (b)(1), however, 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, such as Internet-based client leads, as long as the lead generator does not recommend the lawyer, any payment to the lead generator is consistent with Rules 1.5(e) (division of fees) and 5.4 (professional independence of the lawyer), and the lead generator’s communications are consistent with Rule 7.1 (communications concerning a lawyer’s services). To comply with Rule 7.1, a lawyer must 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 also Rule 5.3 duties of lawyers and law firms with respect to the conduct of nonlawyers; Rule 8.4(a) (duty to avoid violating the Rules through the acts of another).
 A lawyer may pay the usual charges of a legal service plan or a not-for-profit 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 consumer-oriented 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 not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service. A qualified lawyer referral service is one that is approved by an appropriate regulatory authority as affording adequate protections for the public. See, e.g., the American Bar Association’s Model Supreme Court Rules Governing Lawyer Referral Services and Model Lawyer Referral and Information Service Quality Assurance Act (requiring that organizations that are identified as lawyer referral services (i) permit the participation of all lawyers who are licensed and eligible to practice in the jurisdiction and who meet reasonable objective eligibility requirements as may be established by the referral service for the protection of the public; (ii) require each participating lawyer to carry reasonably adequate malpractice insurance; (iii) act reasonably to assess client satisfaction and address client complaints; and (iv) do not make referrals to lawyers who own, operate or are employed by the referral service.)
 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.
 A lawyer also may agree to refer clients to another lawyer or a nonlawyer professional, in return for the undertaking of that person to refer clients or customers to the lawyer. Such reciprocal referral arrangements must not interfere with the lawyer’s professional judgment as to making referrals or as to providing substantive legal services. See Rules 2.1 and 5.4(c). Except as provided in Rule 1.5(e), a lawyer who receives referrals from a lawyer or nonlawyer professional must not pay anything solely for the referral, but the lawyer does not violate paragraph (b) of this Rule by agreeing to refer clients to the other lawyer or nonlawyer professional, so long as the reciprocal referral agreement is not exclusive and the client is informed of the referral agreement. Conflicts of interest created by such arrangements are governed by Rule 1.7. Reciprocal referral agreements should not be of indefinite duration and should be reviewed periodically to determine whether they comply with these Rules. This Rule does not restrict referrals or divisions of revenues or net income among lawyers within firms comprised of multiple entities.
A lawyer may advertise, but must include in an advertisement the name and address of the lawyer or law firm responsible for the content [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Booker, 2015 WI 2 (failure to include an attorney’s name and address in advertisements); see also Disciplinary Proceedings Against Boyd, 2009 WI 59].
Unless one of the four exceptions applies, a lawyer may not pay another to recommend the lawyer’s services [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Mandelman, 158 Wis. 2d 1, 460 N.W.2d 749 (1990) (paying persons to refer clients where these persons approached potential clients at the scene of an accident, at a car repair shop, and at the hospital)].
(a) A lawyer shall not by in-person or 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 the person contacted:
(1) is a lawyer; or
(2) has a family, close personal or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.
(b) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment by written, recorded or electronic communication or by in-person, telephone or real-time electronic contact even when not otherwise prohibited by par. (a), if:
(1) the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the physical, emotional or mental state of the person makes it unlikely that the person would exercise reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer; or
(2) the target of solicitation has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer; or
(3) the solicitation involves coercion, duress or harassment.
(c) Every written, recorded or electronic communication from a lawyer soliciting professional employment from anyone known to be in need of legal services in a particular matter shall include the words “Advertising Material” on the outside envelope, if any, and at the beginning and ending of any printed, recorded or electronic communication, unless the recipient of the communication is a person specified in pars. (a)(1) or (a)(2), and a copy of it shall be filed with the office of lawyer regulation within five days of its dissemination.
(d) Notwithstanding the prohibitions in par. (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.
(e) Except as permitted under SCR 11.06, a lawyer, at his or her instance, shall not draft legal documents, such as wills, trust instruments or contracts, which require or imply that the lawyer’s services be used in relation to that document.
Wisconsin Committee Comment
The Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule differs from the Model Rule in that paragraph (b)(1) has been added, as have the last clause of paragraph (c) and all of paragraph (e). These provisions are carried forward from the prior Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule. When a lawyer uses standard form solicitations that are mailed to many prospective clients, the lawyer satisfies the filing obligation in subparagraph (c) by filing one copy of each version of the solicitation form with the office of lawyer regulation, and by maintaining in the lawyer’s files the names and addresses to which the solicitation was mailed.
Because of differences in content and numbers between the Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule and the Model Rule, care should be used in consulting the ABA Comment.
 A solicitation is a targeted 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 directed to the general public, such as through a billboard, an Internet banner advertisement, a website or a television commercial, or if it is in response to a request for information or is automatically generated in response to Internet searches.
 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 a 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.
 This potential for abuse inherent in direct in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic solicitation justifies its prohibition, particularly since lawyers have alternative means of conveying necessary information to those who may be in need of legal services. In particular, 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 communications and solicitations 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 a person’s judgment.
 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 assure 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.
 There is far less likelihood that a lawyer would engage in abusive practices against a former client, or 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, paragraph (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 their members or beneficiaries.
 But even permitted forms of solicitation can be abused. Thus, any solicitation which contains information which is false or misleading within the meaning of Rule 7.1, which involves coercion, duress or harassment within the meaning of Rule 7.3(b)(2), or which 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 of the communication may violate the provisions of Rule 7.3(b).
 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 which 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 which 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.
 The requirement in Rule 7.3(c) that certain communications be marked “Advertising Material” does not apply to communications sent in response to requests of potential clients or their spokespersons or sponsors. General announcements by lawyers, including changes in personnel or office location, do not constitute communications soliciting professional employment from a client known to be in need of legal services within the meaning of this Rule.
 Paragraph (d) of this Rule permits a lawyer to participate with an organization which 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 by or directed (whether as manager or otherwise) by any lawyer or law firm that participates in the plan. For example, paragraph (d) 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 assure that the plan sponsors are in compliance with Rules 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3(b). See Rule 8.4(a).
Direct contact with potential clients
Subparagraph (a) provides that a lawyer may not solicit professional employment by inperson or live contact unless the person contacted is a lawyer, or has a family, close personal or prior professional relationship with the lawyer [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Ryan, 2009 WI 39 (making an unsolicited call to an incarcerated person’s father for the purpose of offering legal services)].
The direct contact is prohibited even when undue pressure is not apparent [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Arellano, 2013 WI 24 (an unsolicited phone call to a potential client was a violation of the rule, even where the element of undue pressure did not seem to exist)].
Other contacts with potential clients
Subparagraph (c) requires written, recorded, or electronic communications soliciting professional employment sent to persons known to be in need of legal services must be labelled “Advertising Material,” and a copy must be provided to OLR within 5 days of dissemination [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Knight, 2008 WI 13].
OLR review of advertising material is intended to promote compliance with this rule, but does not constitute a review of other ethics rules [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Hupy, 2011 WI 38 (OLR review of advertising sent by a lawyer to prospective clients concerned compliance with SCR 20:7.3, but was not “a stamp of approval that the advertisement complies with all ethical rules”)].
Drafting legal documents requiring the lawyer’s services
Subparagraph (e) [subparagraph (f) prior to July 1, 2007] of the rule prohibits a lawyer, at the lawyer’s insistence, from drafting legal documents requiring the lawyer’s services. This rule has been applied in disciplinary cases to the drafting of wills and trusts [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Conmey, 2005 WI 166 (drafting a will which named the lawyer as personal representative of an estate); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Felli, 2006 WI 73 (preparing trust documents that named the lawyer as trustee)].
A lawyer who is engaged in the dual practice of law and law-related occupation or service may indicate that the lawyer has a law practice in the marketing materials for the law-related occupation or service if the marketing materials comply with SCR 20:7.1 and 7.2. When a lawyer advertises non-legal services and the advertisement states that he or she is a lawyer, then that lawyer is implying that the client will benefit from the lawyer’s legal expertise and that the nonlegal services are based on the lawyer’s status as a lawyer. As a result, the advertisements are governed by the Rules of Professional Conduct. A lawyer may not by in-person contact offer to provide legal services to the clients of the financial planning business. SCR 20:7.3(a), which prohibits a lawyer from soliciting legal employment from a potential client by in-person contact, preserves the right of a person seeking legal services to select a lawyer of his or her choice without being encumbered by the intimidation or overreaching that may result from in-person solicitation, especially when that solicitation is done by the person’s accountant or financial planner. Unlike SCR 20:7.3(a), SCR 20:1.7 and SCR 20:1.8(a) are not adequate to protect the rights of a nonlaw business client from intimidation or overreaching: they do not prohibit a lawyer in his or her nonlaw business from intimidating or asserting undue influence to solicit law clients from that nonlaw business. Consequently, the term “professional relationship” does not include the relationships from a lawyer’s nonlaw business. The acceptance of an unsolicited request for legal representation by a nonlaw business client would not violate SCR 20:7.3. However, the lawyer should exercise caution because professional employment obtained in such manner on more than an infrequent basis may establish that such employment was based on solicitation in violation of Rule 7.3. IE-16-01, July 18, 2016.
(a) A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice 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 admiralty practice may use the designation “admiralty,” “proctor in admiralty” or a substantially similar designation.
(d) 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 state authority or that has been accredited by the American Bar Association; and
(2) the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication.
 Paragraph (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. A lawyer is generally permitted to state that the lawyer is a “specialist,” practices a “specialty,” or “specializes in” particular fields, but such communications are subject to the “false and misleading” standard applied in Rule 7.1 to communications concerning a lawyer’s services.
 Paragraph (b) recognizes the long-established policy of the Patent and Trademark Office for the designation of lawyers practicing before the Office. Paragraph (c) recognizes that designation of Admiralty practice has a long historical tradition associated with maritime commerce and the federal courts.
 Paragraph (d) permits a lawyer to state that the lawyer is certified as a specialist in a field of law if such certification is granted by an organization approved by an appropriate state authority or accredited by the American Bar Association or another organization, such as a state bar association, that has been approved by the state authority to accredit organizations that certify lawyers 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 insure that a lawyer’s recognition as a specialist is meaningful and reliable. In order to insure 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.
(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates SCR 20:7.1. 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 SCR 20:7.1.
(b) A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name or other professional 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.
 A firm may be designated by the names of all or some of its members, by the names of deceased members where there has been a continuing succession in the firm’s identity or by a trade name such as the “ABC Legal Clinic.” A lawyer or law firm may also be designated by a distinctive website address or comparable professional designation. Although the United States Supreme Court has held that legislation may prohibit the use of trade names in professional practice, use of such names in law practice is acceptable so long as it is not misleading. If a private firm uses a trade name that includes a geographical name such as “Springfield Legal Clinic,” an express disclaimer that it is a public legal aid agency may be required to avoid a misleading implication. 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.
 With regard to paragraph (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.
False and misleading information on letterheads
Subparagraph (a) requires that firm names and letterheads not be false or misleading. Letterheads have been misleading when they 1) do not accurately identify the law firm [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Maynard, 2009 WI 106 (sending invoices on the firm’s letterhead misdirecting payments owed to the firm to a post office box to which only the lawyer had access); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Mandelman, 2014 WI 100 (referring to the law firm on letterhead to be a couple different limited liability companies)]; 2) state or imply that an ineligible lawyer is authorized to practice [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Brandt, 2003 WI 138 (listing a lawyer as “of counsel” on the letterhead without noting that the lawyer was not licensed in Wisconsin); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Maynard, 2014 WI 13 (use of firm letterhead while suspended from practice); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Capistrant, 2015 WI 88 (while suspended, the lawyer used letter head stating the lawyer was admitted to practice)].
Subparagraph (a) is not violated unless the false communication is material [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Hupy, 2011 WI 38 (affixing a 35th Anniversary sticker to the lawyer’s letterhead when the firm could trace its lineage only 30 years was not false and misleading because no reasonable person would be influenced by the five-year difference)].
Indicating jurisdictional limitations
When a lawyer has an office in a jurisdiction, the letterhead must indicate limitations of a lawyer not licensed in that jurisdiction [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Ness, 2002 WI 114 (the lawyer maintained an office in Minnesota although not licensed there, and failed to indicate on the letterhead that the lawyer was not licensed in Minnesota)].
Asserting partnership status
Subparagraph (d) requires that lawyers state or imply they practice in a partnership only when that is the fact [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Brandt, 2003 WI 138 (stating that the practice was a partnership when it was not); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Brown, 2010 WI 104 (allowing a lawyer not licensed in Wisconsin falsely to hold himself out as an employee, associate, or partner of the firm); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Voss, 2014 WI 75 (allowing a lawyer in an office-sharing arrangement falsely to hold himself out as a partner)].
(a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, except for disclosures that are impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, and except as stated in pars. (b) and (c).
(b) A lawyer shall reveal information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to prevent the client from committing a criminal or fraudulent act that the lawyer reasonably believes is likely to result in death or substantial bodily harm or in substantial injury to the financial interest or property of another.
(c) A lawyer may reveal information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary:
(1) to prevent reasonably likely death or substantial bodily harm;
(2) 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;
(3) to secure legal advice about the lawyer’s conduct under these rules;
(4) 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;
(5) to comply with other law or a court order; or
(6) to detect and resolve conflicts of interest, but only if the revealed information would not compromise the attorney-client privilege or otherwise prejudice the client.
(d) 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.
Wisconsin Committee Comment
The rule retains in paragraph (b) the mandatory disclosure requirements that have been a part of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules since their initial adoption. Paragraph (c) differs from its counterpart, Model Rule 1.6(b), as necessary to take account of the mandatory disclosure requirements in Wisconsin. The language in paragraph (c)(1) was changed from “reasonably certain” to “reasonably likely” to comport with sub. (b). Due to substantive and numbering differences, special care should be taken in consulting the ABA Comment.
Wisconsin Committee Comment
Paragraph (c)(6) differs from its counterpart, Model Rule 1.6(b)(7). Unlike its counterpart, paragraph (c)(6) is not limited to detecting and resolving conflicts arising from the lawyer’s change in employment or from changes in the composition or ownership of a firm. Paragraph (c)(6), like its counterpart, recognizes that in certain circumstances, lawyers in different firms may need to disclose limited information to each other to detect and resolve conflicts of interest. ABA Comment  provides examples of those circumstances. Paragraph (c)(6), unlike its counterpart, also recognizes that in certain circumstances, lawyers may need to disclose limited information to clients and former clients to detect and resolve conflict of interests. Under those circumstances, any such disclosure should ordinarily include no more than the identity of the clients or former clients. The disclosure of any information, to either lawyers in different firms or to other clients or former clients, is prohibited if it would compromise the attorney-client privilege or otherwise prejudice the client. ABA Comment  provides examples of when the disclosure of any information would prejudice the client. Lawyers should err on the side of protecting confidentiality.
 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.
 A fundamental principle in the client-lawyer relationship is that, in the absence of the client’s informed consent, the lawyer must not reveal information relating to the representation. See Rule 1.0(e) for the definition of informed consent. This contributes to the trust that is the hallmark of the client-lawyer relationship. The client is thereby encouraged to seek legal assistance and to communicate fully and frankly with the lawyer even as to embarrassing or legally damaging subject matter. The lawyer needs this information to represent the client effectively and, if necessary, to advise the client to refrain from wrongful conduct. Almost without exception, clients come to lawyers in order to determine their rights and what is, in the complex of laws and regulations, deemed to be legal and correct. Based upon experience, lawyers know that almost all clients follow the advice given, and the law is upheld.
 The principle of client-lawyer confidentiality is given effect by related bodies of law: the attorney-client privilege, the work product doctrine and the rule of confidentiality established in professional ethics. The attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine apply in judicial and other proceedings in which a lawyer may be called as a witness or otherwise required to produce evidence concerning a client. The rule of client-lawyer confidentiality applies in situations other than those where evidence is sought from the lawyer through compulsion of law. The confidentiality rule, for example, applies not only to matters communicated in confidence by the client but also to all information relating to the representation, whatever its source. A lawyer may not disclose such information except as authorized or required by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law. See also Scope.
 Paragraph (a) prohibits a lawyer from revealing information relating to the representation of a client. This prohibition also applies to disclosures by a lawyer that do not in themselves reveal protected information but could reasonably lead to the discovery of such information by a third person. A lawyer’s use of a hypothetical to discuss issues relating to the representation is permissible so long as there is no reasonable likelihood that the listener will be able to ascertain the identity of the client or the situation involved.
 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
 Although the public interest is usually best served by a strict rule requiring lawyers to preserve the confidentiality of information relating to the representation of their clients, the confidentiality rule is subject to limited exceptions. Paragraph (b)(1) recognizes the overriding value of life and physical integrity and permits disclosure reasonably necessary to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm. Such harm is reasonably certain to occur if it will be suffered imminently or if there is a present and substantial threat that a person will suffer such harm at a later date if the lawyer fails to take action necessary to eliminate the threat. Thus, a lawyer who knows that a client has accidentally discharged toxic waste into a town’s water supply may reveal this information to the authorities if there is a present and substantial risk that a person who drinks the water will contract a life-threatening or debilitating disease and the lawyer’s disclosure is necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce the number of victims.
 Paragraph (b)(2) is a limited exception to the rule of confidentiality that permits the lawyer to reveal information to the extent necessary to enable affected persons or appropriate authorities to prevent the client from committing a crime or fraud, as defined in Rule 1.0(d), that is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the financial or property interests of another and in furtherance of which the client has used or is using the lawyer’s services. Such a serious abuse of the client-lawyer relationship by the client forfeits the protection of this Rule. The client can, of course, prevent such disclosure by refraining from the wrongful conduct. Although paragraph (b)(2) does not require the lawyer to reveal the client’s misconduct, the lawyer may not counsel or assist the client in conduct the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent. See Rule 1.2(d). See also Rule 1.16 with respect to the lawyer’s obligation or right to withdraw from the representation of the client in such circumstances, and Rule 1.13(c), which permits the lawyer, where the client is an organization, to reveal information relating to the representation in limited circumstances.
 Paragraph (b)(3) addresses the situation in which the lawyer does not learn of the client’s crime or fraud until after it has been consummated. Although the client no longer has the option of preventing disclosure by refraining from the wrongful conduct, there will be situations in which the loss suffered by the affected person can be prevented, rectified or mitigated. In such situations, the lawyer may disclose information relating to the representation to the extent necessary to enable the affected persons to prevent or mitigate reasonably certain losses or to attempt to recoup their losses. Paragraph (b)(3) does not apply when a person who has committed a crime or fraud thereafter employs a lawyer for representation concerning that offense.
 A lawyer’s confidentiality obligations do not preclude a lawyer from securing confidential legal advice about the lawyer’s personal responsibility to comply with these Rules. In most situations, disclosing information to secure such advice will be impliedly authorized for the lawyer to carry out the representation. Even when the disclosure is not impliedly authorized, paragraph (b)(4) permits such disclosure because of the importance of a lawyer’s compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct.
 Where a legal claim or disciplinary charge alleges complicity of the lawyer in a client’s conduct or other misconduct of the lawyer involving representation of the client, the lawyer may respond to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to establish a defense. The same is true with respect to a claim involving the conduct or representation of a former client. Such a charge can arise in a civil, criminal, disciplinary or other proceeding and can be based on a wrong allegedly committed by the lawyer against the client or on a wrong alleged by a third person, for example, a person claiming to have been defrauded by the lawyer and client acting together. The lawyer’s right to respond arises when an assertion of such complicity has been made. Paragraph (b)(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.
 A lawyer entitled to a fee is permitted by paragraph (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.
 Other law may require that a lawyer disclose information about a client. Whether such a law supersedes Rule 1.6 is a question of law beyond the scope of these Rules. When disclosure of information relating to the representation appears to be required by other law, the lawyer must discuss the matter with the client to the extent required by Rule 1.4. If, however, the other law supersedes this Rule and requires disclosure, paragraph (b)(6) permits the lawyer to make such disclosures as are necessary to comply with the law.
 Paragraph (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 . 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, however, 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 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, paragraph (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.
 Any information disclosed pursuant to paragraph (b)(7) may be used or further disclosed only to the extent necessary to detect and resolve conflicts of interest. Paragraph (b)(7) does not restrict the use of information acquired by means independent of any disclosure pursuant to paragraph (b)(7). Paragraph (b)(7) also does not affect the disclosure of information within a law firm when the disclosure is otherwise authorized, see Comment , 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.
 A lawyer may be ordered to reveal information relating to the representation of a client by a court or by another tribunal or governmental entity claiming authority pursuant to other law to compel the disclosure. Absent informed consent of the client to do otherwise, the lawyer should assert on behalf of the client all nonfrivolous claims that the order is not authorized by other law or that the information sought is protected against disclosure by the attorney-client privilege or other applicable law. In the event of an adverse ruling, the lawyer must consult with the client about the possibility of appeal to the extent required by Rule 1.4. Unless review is sought, however, paragraph (b)(6) permits the lawyer to comply with the court’s order.
 Paragraph (b) permits disclosure only to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes the disclosure is necessary to accomplish one of the purposes specified. Where practicable, the lawyer should first seek to persuade the client to take suitable action to obviate the need for disclosure. In any case, a disclosure adverse to the client’s interest should be no greater than the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to accomplish the purpose. If the disclosure will be made in connection with a judicial proceeding, the disclosure should be made in a manner that limits access to the information to the tribunal or other persons having a need to know it and appropriate protective orders or other arrangements should be sought by the lawyer to the fullest extent practicable.
 Paragraph (b) permits but does not require the disclosure of information relating to a client’s representation to accomplish the purposes specified in paragraphs (b)(1) through (b)(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 paragraph (b) does not violate this Rule. Disclosure may be required, however, by other Rules. Some Rules require disclosure only if such disclosure would be permitted by paragraph (b). See Rules 1.2(d), 4.1(b), 8.1, and 8.3. Rule 3.3, on the other hand, requires disclosure in some circumstances regardless of whether such disclosure is permitted by this Rule. See Rule 3.3(c).
Acting Competently to Preserve Confidentiality
 Paragraph (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 relating to the representation of a client does not constitute a violation of paragraph (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 forgo 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 and federal laws that govern data privacy or that impose 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 -.
 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 that govern data privacy, is beyond the scope of these Rules.
 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.
A lawyer may not reveal information relating to the representation of the client without client consent [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Gorokhovsky, 2012 WI 120 (without client consent, discussing the client’s case with the party paying for the client’s legal services); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Atta, 2016 WI 69 (without client consent, sending proposed findings of fact and other information to the lawyer’s brother)], unless the lawyer is impliedly authorized to reveal the information [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Duchemin, 2003 WI 19 (revealing to the client’s mother, who referred the daughter to the lawyer, that the daughter had contacted him about representation, and asking the circumstances regarding gifts and loans between the mother and daughter, was impliedly authorized and not a violation)].
A lawyer has a duty to maintain the confidentiality of information relating to the representation after the representation has terminated. [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Niesen, 2011 WI 97 (abandoning the practice without taking steps to ensure continued confidentiality of information in clients’ files); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Ramthun, 2015 WI 94 (failing to pay the monthly storage bill and thereby subjecting former clients’ files to be revealed at a public sale)].
A lawyer may reveal information adverse to a client to respond to allegations concerning the lawyer’s representation of the client [Disciplinary Proceedings Against Thompson, 2014 WI 25 (a lawyer who wrote to the court prior to a post-conviction hearing on the issue of the effectiveness of the lawyer’s conduct during the criminal trial was permitted to respond to the allegations in the client’s post-conviction motion)].
Lawyers may not assist others in the unauthorized practice of law and may not share legal fees with nonlawyers. These prohibitions apply to all lawyers, including lawyers who are employed as in-house counsel for entities that are not law firms. Entities that are not law firms are prohibited from practicing law, and a lawyer employed by a non-law firm entity who provides legal services to the customers of the entity as part of the services sold to such customers assists the entity in the unauthorized practice of law. When the customers pay the entity for the legal services provided by the lawyer, the lawyer impermissibly shares legal fees with a nonlawyer. In addition to the prohibitions on assisting another in the unauthorized practice of law and sharing fees with nonlawyers, an in-house lawyer who seeks to provide legal services to the customers of the employer faces potential conflicts of interest and difficulties in observing the duty of confidentiality. EF-18-02, August 14, 2018.
A lawyer may use cloud computing as long as the lawyer uses reasonable efforts to adequately address the risks associated with it. The Rules of Professional Conduct require that lawyers act competently both to protect client information and confidentiality, and to protect the lawyer’s ability to reliably access and provide relevant client information when needed.
To be reasonable, the lawyer’s efforts must be commensurate with the risks presented. Among the factors to be considered in assessing that risk are the information’s sensitivity; the client’s instructions and circumstances; the possible effect that inadvertent disclosure or unauthorized interception could pose to a client or third party; the attorney’s ability to assess the technology’s level of security; the likelihood of disclosure if additional safeguards are not employed; the cost of employing additional safeguards; the difficulty of implementing the safeguards; the extent to which the safeguards adversely affect the lawyer’s ability to represent clients; the need for increased accessibility and the urgency of the situation; the experience and reputation of the service provider; the terms of the agreement with the service provider; and the legal and ethical environments of the jurisdictions in which the services will be performed, particularly with regard to confidentiality.
To determine what efforts are reasonable, lawyers should understand the importance of computer security, such as the use of firewalls, virus and spyware programs, operating systems updates, strong passwords and multifactor authentication, and encryption for information stored both in the cloud and on the ground. Lawyers should also understand the dangers of using public Wi-Fi and file sharing sites. Lawyers who outsource cloud computing services should understand the importance of selecting a provider that uses appropriate security protocols. Lawyers should also understand the importance of regularly backing up data and storing data in more than one place. A lawyer may consult with someone who has the necessary knowledge to help determine what efforts are reasonable.
EF-15-01 Amended, September 8, 2017.
The ethical duty of confidentiality protects all information relating to the representation of the client, whatever its source, including the identity of the client. SCR 20:1.6 prohibits the disclosure of a client’s identity unless the client gives informed consent to the disclosure, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out representation, or the disclosure falls within certain stated exceptions. Whether a client’s identity is protected by the lawyer-client privilege under Wis. Stat. § 905.03 is beyond the scope of this opinion. Ethics Opinion E-93-5 is withdrawn. EF-17-02, April 4, 2017.
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