Ethics 2000 - February 2002 Report


RULE 7.2: ADVERTISING

(a) Subject to the requirements of Rules 7.1 and 7.3, a lawyer may advertise services through public media, such as a telephone directory, legal directory, newspaper or other periodical, outdoor advertising, radio or television, or through written or , recorded or electronic communication , including public media.

(b) A copy or recording of an advertisement or communication shall be kept for two years after its last dissemination along with a record of when and where it was used.

(c) (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 costs of advertisements or communications permitted by this Rule;

(2) pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit lawyer referral service or legal service organization 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; and

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

(d) (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.

Comment

[1] To assist the public in 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 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 advertising, against advertising going beyond specified facts about a lawyer, or against "undignified" advertising. Television is now one of 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. Similarly, electronic media, such as the Internet, can be an important source of information about legal services, and lawful communication by electronic mail is permitted by this Rule. But see Rule 7.3(a) for the prohibition against the solicitation of a prospective client through a real-time electronic exchange that is not initiated by the prospective client.

[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.

Record of Advertising

[5] Paragraph (b) requires that a record of the content and use of advertising be kept in order to facilitate enforcement of this Rule. It does not require that advertising be subject to review prior to dissemination. Such a requirement would be burdensome and expensive relative to its possible benefits, and may be of doubtful constitutionality.

Paying Others to Recommend a Lawyer

[6] [5] A lawyer is allowed to pay for advertising permitted by this Rule and for the purchase of a law practice in accordance with the provisions of Rule 1.17, but otherwise is Lawyers are not permitted to pay another person others for channeling professional work. This restriction does not prevent an organization or person other than the lawyer from advertising or recommending the lawyer's services. Thus, a legal aid agency or prepaid legal services plan may pay to advertise legal services provided under its auspices. Likewise, a lawyer may participate in not-for-profit lawyer referral programs and pay the usual fees charged by such programs. Paragraph (c) does not prohibit paying regular compensation to an assistant, such as a secretary, to prepare communications permitted by this Rule. 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, banner ads, 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. See Rule 5.3 for the duties of lawyers and law firms with respect to the conduct of nonlawyers who prepare marketing materials for them.

[6] 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 prospective clients 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 laypersons 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 prospective clients. 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 prospective clients; (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 refer prospective clients to lawyers who own, operate or are employed by the referral service.)

[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 prospective clients, 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 prospective clients 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.

Model Rule 7.2

Reporter's Explanation of Changes

TEXT:

1. Paragraph (a): delete specification of types of public media and add reference to "electronic communication"

This change is proposed to accommodate the new technology that is currently being used by law firms to market legal services e.g., websites and e-mail. Examples of "public media" are being dropped from the Rule text and moved to Comment [3], obviating the necessity of changing the Rule to accommodate the next new public-communication technology. A specific reference to the Internet has been added to Comment [3].

A reference to electronic communication has also been added. To provide a specific example of this type of technology, a reference to e-mail has been added to Comment [3] with a cross-reference to the prohibition in Rule 7.3(a) of solicitation by real-time electronic contact.

2. Delete current paragraph (b)

The requirement that a lawyer retain copies of all advertisements for two years has become increasingly burdensome, and such records are seldom used for disciplinary purposes. Thus the Commission, with the concurrence of the ABA Commission on Responsibility in Client Development, is recommending elimination of the requirement that records of advertising be retained for two years.

3. Paragraph (b)(2): Replace reference to "legal service organization" with "legal service plan"

This change in terminology is intended to avoid confusion between a "legal services organization," which provides direct legal services to clients and is included in the definition of a law firm in Rule 1.0(c), and prepaid and group legal service plans, and other similar delivery systems, whose usual charges are excepted from the prohibition against a lawyer giving anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer's services in Rule 7.2(b).

4. Paragraph (b)(2): Modify to permit lawyers to pay the usual charges of "a not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service"

This change is intended to more closely conform the Model Rules to ABA policy with respect to lawyer referral services. It recognizes the need to protect prospective clients who have come to think of lawyer referral services as 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. The effect of the proposal is to permit lawyers to pay the usual charges of a for-profit lawyer referral service, but only if it has been approved by an appropriate regulatory authority as affording adequate protections for prospective clients, preferably in conformity with the four core standards prescribed in the American Bar Association's Model Supreme Court Rules Governing Lawyer Referral Services and Model Lawyer Referral and Information Service Quality Assurance Act. Because the need for special regulation arises from the prevailing public perception of lawyer referral services, this special regulatory regime is only applicable to a for-profit organization that holds itself out to the public as a lawyer referral service. See Comment [6].

5. Paragraph (c): Modify to permit identification of law firm as entity responsible for advertisement

The Commission thinks that law firms should be able to designate the firm as the entity responsible for the contents of an advertisement. Such information, rather than the name of a specific lawyer in the firm, should be sufficient to enable disciplinary authorities to take action necessary to protect the public from misleading advertising.

6. Paragraph (c): Require identification of the address of the law firm or lawyer responsible for advertisement

Because Rule 7.5 permits the use of trade names and because lawyers frequently advertise in locations where they do not maintain an office, the Commission has added a requirement that each advertisement include an office address for the law firm or lawyer named in the advertisement. This information will help disciplinary authorities track down those who are responsible for an advertisement, but, more importantly, it will provide prospective clients with important information about where the lawyer or law firm is located - an important fact in this era of multi-jurisdictional advertising.

COMMENT:

[3] Although the Commission concluded that a specification of the various public media lawyers can use to market their services should not be included in the Rule text, it thought it appropriate to explicitly affirm the legitimacy of using electronic media, including the Internet and the World Wide Web. The reference to "lawful" electronic mail was included to require lawyers to comply with any law that might prohibit "spamming" — i.e., the mass e-mailing of commercial messages. A cross-reference to Rule 7.3(a) has been added to alert lawyers to the proposed prohibition of solicitation by real-time electronic contact.

[5] This Comment and the related caption have been deleted because current paragraph (b) was deleted from the Rule text.

[5] The discussion of advertising expenses has been modified to more accurately reflect the current state of client-development activities in law firms. To this has been added a cross-reference to Rule 5.3 as a reminder of the partner's and firm's obligations with respect to the conduct of nonlawyers involved in client development activities.

[6] In response to a concern about the ambiguity of the reference in paragraph (b)(2) to "a legal service organization," this new Comment defines a legal service plan to specifically include prepaid and group legal service plans, and also to include "a similar delivery system that assists prospective clients to secure legal representation." This clarifies that lawyers may pay the usual charges of not only traditional prepaid and group legal service plans, but also the usual charges of new hybrid plans that might undertake to provide a variety of services to prospective clients. Also by its definition of a lawyer referral service as an organization that holds itself out to the public as a lawyer referral service, the Comment precludes extension of the special regulatory regime governing lawyer referral services to prepaid or group legal service plans and other similar delivery systems. Finally the Comment articulates ABA policy with respect to the core characteristics of a qualified lawyer referral service.

[7] This new Comment alerts lawyers who accept assignments or referrals from legal service plans or referrals from lawyer referral services that they must act reasonably to assure that the activities of the plan or service are compatible with the lawyers' professional obligations.

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