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Model Rule 7.1

Reporter's Explanation of Changes


1. Modify to limit prohibition to false and misleading communications

The Commission has limited Rule 7.1 to a prohibition against false or misleading communications, defined in terms of the material misrepresentations or omissions that are the subject of current paragraph (a). The categorical prohibitions in current paragraphs (b) and (c) have been criticized as being overly broad and have therefore been relocated from text to the commentary as examples of statements that are likely to be misleading. The Commission believes this approach strikes the proper balance between lawyer free-speech interests and the need for consumer protection.

2. Paragraph (b): Delete "is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve"

The Commission recommends deletion of this specification of a "misleading" communication because it is overly broad and can be interpreted to prohibit communications that are not substantially likely to lead a reasonable person to form a specific and unwarranted conclusion about the lawyer or the lawyer's services. See Comment [2].

3. Paragraph (b): Delete "states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law"

The Commission recommends that this portion of paragraph (b) be moved to Rule 8.4(e) because this prohibition should not be limited to advertising. Comment [4] provides a cross-reference.

4. Delete paragraph (c)

The Commission also believes that a prohibition of all comparisons that cannot be factually substantiated is unduly broad. Whether such comparisons are misleading should be assessed on a case-by-case basis in terms of whether the particular comparison is substantially likely to mislead a reasonable person to believe that the comparison can be substantiated. See Comment [3].


[1] The matters addressed by the deleted portions of current Comment [1] are now addressed in Comment [3].

[2] New Comment [2] discusses the prohibition against materially misleading statements. The third sentence sets forth a new standard for determining whether a lawyer's truthful statement is misleading. The "substantial likelihood" test is used in Rule 3.6 to balance the competing interests in free speech and fair trial. The Commission thinks that this standard strikes the proper balance between the lawyer's free-speech interests and the need for consumer protection.

[3] New Comment [3] addresses the problem areas covered in current paragraphs (b) and (c), explaining circumstances under which statements raising unjustified expectations and making unsubstantiated comparisons may be false or misleading. The first sentence is a modification of the deleted portion of current Comment [1]. Rather than stating that truthful reports of a lawyer's achievements are ordinarily prohibited as misleading, the Comment is limited to a warning that such statements may be misleading. The second sentence indicates that comparisons that cannot be factually substantiated will be misleading only if there is a substantial likelihood that a reasonable person would conclude that the comparison could be factually substantiated. Neither statement is as sweeping as its counterpart in the current Comment or paragraph (c). Because many jurisdictions encourage or require the use of disclaimers in lawyer advertising, the final sentence indicates that disclaimers may reduce the likelihood that a statement about the lawyer or the lawyer's services will be misleading.

[4] This new Comment is a cross-reference to Rule 8.4(e) which prohibits lawyers from stating or implying that they have an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official or that they can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

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