Checklist for Lawyers who Advertise

ADVERTISING REGULATION AND INFORMATION
QUICK REFERENCE CHECKLIST

The following quick reference checklist is intended to assist attorneys in developing advertisements that comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct. Compliance with the guidance identified in the checklist is not a guarantee that the advertisement complies with the advertising rules because the checklist cannot cover every possible example of a false or misleading statement. Although not required, the Virginia State Bar’s Ethics Department would be pleased to review your ad in advance of its publication. Proposed ads may be sent to adreview@vsb.org.

1. Does the advertisement/communication contain any false or misleading statements? If yes, then the advertisement violates Rule of Professional Conduct 7.1, which provides that “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 contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.”  See, also, Legal Ethics Opinion 1750.

            Examples of false or misleading statements include:

(a) A statement that “you pay nothing unless we win” if the client is responsible for costs/expenses as required by Rule 1.8(e). 

(b) A statement that a lawyer handles a particular type of case when in fact the lawyer’s only involvement is to intake a client and then refer the client to another lawyer outside the firm. 

(c) A statement that a lawyer charges a certain fee for a particular type of case when the lawyer does not actually charge that fee in those types of cases.

(d) A statement that omits material facts, such as a statement that “We won a $2 million verdict in this case” when in fact the verdict was overturned on appeal, the verdict was against a non-appearing judgment-proof defendant who was in default, or the lawyer had turned down a $3 million offer.  

(e) A statement that an outcome was not or will not be related to the facts or merits of the particular matter.

(f) A comparison of the lawyer’s services or fees with the services or fees of other lawyers which cannot be factually substantiated.

(g) Using an actor to portray a lawyer or client of the firm, without a disclaimer, when the advertisement implies that an actor is actually a lawyer or client of the law firm.

(h) Using a firm name which suggests that the lawyer practices in a partnership or other organization when the lawyer is not associated with others but is in an office-sharing arrangement only. Comment [6] to Rule 7.1.

(i)  Stating that a lawyer must be consulted regarding a specific legal matter.

2. If the communication is a solicitation of a potential client known to be in need of legal services in a particular matter, does it conspicuously display the words “ADVERTISING MATERIAL” on the outside envelope or at the beginning and ending of any recorded or electronic communication? If yes, then the advertisement complies with Rule 7.3(c).

 

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Updated: Sep 06, 2018