For lawyers seeking to promote themselves and/or their services, legal advertising can provide an additional avenue for driving the new business that is crucial for a firm’s success. However, marketing within the legal space can also be a minefield, making it essential to accurately portray the firm and avoid unethical conduct.

To help lawyers navigate advertising while maintaining ethical standards, the American Bar Association (ABA) has established Model Rules 7.1-7.4. This blog will provide a comprehensive overview of the do’s and don’ts of legal advertising according to these rules, giving you the necessary knowledge to bring in new business while remaining compliant.

1. Understanding ABA Model Rule 7.1: Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services

Rule 7.1 addresses the prohibition of false or misleading communication about a lawyer or their services. The key principle here is that all advertising must be truthful and not deceptive.

Key Points:

False or misleading communication is:

  • any statement that contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.
  • claims that could create unjustified expectations or comparisons that cannot be factually substantiated.

Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Do ensure all claims in your advertising are verifiable and based on fact.
  • Don’t make statements that could lead to unjustified expectations or imply results that cannot be guaranteed.

Violation Example:

A lawyer advertises their services with the statement, “I ensure you will have  a favorable outcome for your case!” This is a clear violation because it creates unjustified expectations by guaranteeing a result that cannot be ensured.

2. Understanding ABA Model Rule 7.2: Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services: Specific Rules

Rule 7.2 outlines specific rules regarding how lawyers may communicate information about their services, including the methods of communication and the restrictions on compensating individuals for recommendations.

Key Points:

  • Lawyers are permitted to pay to communicate information about their services through any form of media, including print, television, radio, social media, and law firm websites.
  • Except in very limited circumstances, lawyers are prohibited from paying someone to recommend their practice. Payment includes compensating, giving, or promising anything of value for a recommendation. An exception would be a token gift given strictly as an expression of appreciation.
    • Lawyers may pay not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral services to communicate the services of their firm, as long as the referrals are unbiased and payment for the services is equal to those usually charged.
  • Lawyers are permitted to pay for generation of client leads as long as the organization generating those leads does not in any way recommend the lawyer or the firm, and the organization follows all other requirements for legal advertising.
  • Lawyers must not state or imply that they are certified as specialists in a particular field of law unless officially certified as such by an appropriate organization or authority.
  • All communications must include the name and contact information of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content.

Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Do include necessary disclaimers to avoid misleading potential clients.
  • Don’t compensate others in exchange for a recommendation.

Violation Example:

A lawyer creates an online advertisement that includes the statement, “Voted Best Lawyer by XYZ Review Site,” without disclosing that the lawyer paid for the listing and the award.

3. Understanding ABA Model Rule 7.3: Solicitation of Clients

Rule 7.3 deals with the direct solicitation of clients, imposing restrictions to protect potential clients from harassment.

Key Points:

  • Solictication is defined as targeted communication initiated by or on behalf of a lawyer that is directed to a specific person and offers to provide legal services when the motive for that communication is monetary gain for the lawyer.
  • Direct in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact with a prospective client for the purpose of obtaining professional employment is prohibited, unless the person contacted is a lawyer or has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.

Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Do follow up with potential clients through permissible channels like emails or mailed brochures.
  • Don’t engage in coercive or harassing tactics when soliciting clients.

Violation Example:

A lawyer obtains a list of recent accident victims from a public database. The lawyer then calls each person on the list, offering legal services to help them with their personal injury claims.

4. Understanding ABA Model Rule 7.4: Communication of Fields of Practice and Specialization

Rule 7.4 guides how lawyers can communicate their fields of practice and claims of specialization.

Key Points:

  • Lawyers may communicate that they practice in particular fields of law but must not state or imply they are certified as a specialist unless they have been certified by an appropriate organization.
  • Terms like “specialist,” “expert,” or “authority” should be used cautiously and accurately.

Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Do clearly identify the name of any certification organizations supporting your claims in your communications.
  • Don’t claim a specialization without the proper certification to back it up.

Violation Example:

A lawyer advertises on their website, stating, “John Doe – Family Law Specialist,” without having received certification from an approved organization. The advertisement does not include the name of any certifying body.

Note: Both Rules 7.2 and 7.4 address the issue of specialization to ensure that lawyers do not make misleading claims about their qualifications. Rule 7.2 touches on it within the broader context of advertising, while Rule 7.4 provides more detailed guidance specifically related to communicating fields of practice and specialization.

What Broughton Partners Can Do For You

Adhering to the ABA Model Rules 7.1-7.4 is essential for maintaining ethical standards in legal advertising. Lawyers must ensure their advertisements are truthful, not misleading, and comply with all specific guidelines related to solicitation and claims of specialization.

With Broughton Partners, your law firm can gain more clients and build better connections between claimants, litigating firms, and referring firms—all while staying compliant with ABA advertising rules. With various consumer-facing brands, we reach out to potential claimants across television, radio, social media, and other advertising avenues. Claimants contact our in-house 24/7 call center and are screened for eligibility using criteria created with leading litigators. These pre-qualified retainers are then delivered to your firm without any additional work on your part.

Our proven process lets attorneys help more people without adding to their workload, and gives claimants more power to find necessary legal aid. Want to know more? Call us at (844) 206-4644 or complete our online contact form today.