Login | March 18, 2019

ABA proposes new Model Rules for lawyer advertising

Legal News Reporter

Published: March 9, 2018

The ABA continues to try to keep up with the digital age, part 15 zillion.

The American Bar Association recently released new amendments to the Model Rules on lawyer advertising, along with a supporting memo. The changes would be to Rule 7.

In particular, the changes “would amend ABA Model Rules 7.1: Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services, 7.2: Advertising, 7.3: Solicitation of Clients, 7.4: Communication of Fields of Practice and Specialization, and 7.5: Firm Names and Letterheads, and would add a new provision to Model Rule 1.0:Terminology.  The key changes focus on model rule provisions related to false and misleading “communications” and solicitations by lawyers.”

The proposals cap a three-year study and recommendations by the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers. Essentially, the ABA is trying to corral all of the various rules and decisions in this arena and try to make sense out of lawyer digital advertising. So, good luck with that.

Anyway, the ABA is basically going small with this stuff, trying to clean up a collection of rough edges.

A few things. “Live solicitation” via Skype, etc. would be prohibited (unless the object of the solicitation is a Skype power user or something).

Ambulance chasing after-accident brochures would no longer have to labeled “lawyer advertising,” saving lots of bright red ink.

Lawyers would now be able to give people small gifts without those gifts being tagged as rewards for potential referrals.

The proposed amendment would eliminate the need to list a street address for the lawyer or firm, and only require “contact information” on solicitations.

Lawyers would be able to call themselves “specialists” in a practice area without having to be certified as such.

One analysis of the changes, by Karen Rubin at Thompson Hine, points to an area not covered by the proposed amendments, which she calls the “elephant in the room” of third-party referral fees from services like Avvo. Several Avvo services handle referrals and fees, and then charge back referral fees to the lawyer. A few states have had a problem with that kind of arrangement, but the proposed rules remain silent, and some of the language may actually allow such fees, according to Rubin’s analysis.

Anyway, see for yourself. https://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/aba-news-archives/2017/12/aba_releases_propose.html