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End-of-life notice: American Legal Ethics Library

As of March 1, 2013, the Legal Information Institute is no longer maintaining the information in the American Legal Ethics Library. It is no longer possible for us to maintain it at a level of completeness and accuracy given its staffing needs. It is very possible that we will revive it at a future time. At this point, it is in need of a complete technological renovation and reworking of the "correspondent firm" model which successfully sustained it for many years.

Many people have contributed time and effort to the project over the years, and we would like to thank them. In particular, Roger Cramton and Peter Martin not only conceived ALEL but gave much of their own labor to it. We are also grateful to Brad Wendel for his editorial contributions, to Brian Toohey and all at Jones Day for their efforts, and to all of our correspondents and contributors. Thank you.

We regret any inconvenience.

Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.


Pennsylvania Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct

Comment - Rule 7.2

[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 specific 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.

[4] Neither this Rule nor Rule 7.3 prohibits communications authorized by law, such as a 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] Subject to the limitations set forth under paragraph (j), a lawyer is allowed to pay for advertising permitted by this Rule, but otherwise is not permitted to pay another person 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 these 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.

Endorsements

[7] Paragraphs (d) and (e) require truthfulness in any advertising in which an endorsement of a lawyer or law firm is made. The prohibition against endorsement by celebrity or public figure is consistent with the purpose of Rule 7.1 to avoid the creation of an unjustified expectation of a particular legal result on the part of a prospective client.

Portrayals

[8] Paragraphs (f) and (g), similarly, require truth in advertising when portrayals are made part of legal advertising. A portrayal, by its nature, is a depiction of a person, event or scene, not the actual person, event or scene itself. Paragraphs (f) and (g) were added to ensure that any portrayals used in advertising legal services are not misleading or overreaching. Creating the impression that lawyers are associated in a firm where that is not the case was considered inherently misleading because it suggests that the various lawyers involved are available to support each other and contribute to the handling of a case. Paragraph (f) accordingly prohibits advertisements that create the impression of a relationship among lawyers where none exists, such as by using a fictitious name to refer to the lawyers involved if they are not associated together in a firm.

Disclosure of Fees and Client Expenses

[9] Consistent with the public's need to have an accurate dissemination of information about the cost of legal services, paragraph (h) requires disclosure of a client's responsibility for payment of expenses in contingent fee matters when the client will be required to pay any portion of expenses that will be incurred in the handling of a legal matter.

[10] Under the same rationale, paragraph (h) imposes minimum periods of time during which advertised fees must be honored.

Disclosure of Geographic Location of Practice

[11] Paragraph (i) requires disclosure of the geographic location in which the advertising lawyer's primary practice is situated. This provision seeks to rectify situations in which a person seeking legal services is misled into concluding that an advertising lawyer has his or her primary practice in the client's hometown when, in fact, the advertising lawyer's primary practice is located elsewhere. Paragraph (i) ensures that a client has received a disclosure as to whether the lawyer he or she ultimately chooses maintains a primary practice located outside of the client's own city, town or county.

Disclosure of Payment of Advertising Costs

[12] Paragraph (j) prohibits lawyers and law firms from paying advertising costs of independent lawyers or other persons unless disclosure is made in the advertising of the name and address of each paying lawyer or law firm, as well as of the business relationship between the paying parties and the advertising parties.

[13] Advertisements sponsored by advertising cooperatives (where lawyers or law firms pool resources to buy advertising space or time) are considered advertisements by each of the lawyers participating in the cooperative and accordingly will be subject generally to all of the provisions of these Rules on advertising. Advertising cooperatives have been referred to expressly in paragraph (j) to make clear that references to "indirect" actions are intended to have a wide scope and include advertising cooperatives and similar arrangements. Thus, advertising cooperatives and similar arrangements are permissible, but only if the required disclosures are made. In the case of cooperative arrangements, the required disclosures must include the basis or criteria on which lawyers or law firms participating in the cooperative will be referred cases, e.g., chronological order of calls, geographic location, etc.

[14] Paragraph (k) prohibits a lawyer from misleading the public by giving the impression in an advertisement that the lawyer or his or her law firm specializes in a particular area of the law unless the lawyer or his or her law firm handles the type of case advertised as a principal part of the practice of the lawyer or law firm. For example, where a lawyer advertises for "personal injury cases" or "serious personal injury cases" or "death cases only" those types of cases must, in fact, constitute a principal part of the practice of the lawyer or his or her firm.

[15] Paragraph (k) also prohibits advertising for the primary purposes of obtaining cases that can be referred or brokered to another lawyer. Obviously, a lawyer is permitted and encouraged to refer cases to other lawyers where that lawyer does not have the skill or expertise to properly represent a client. However, it is misleading to the public for a lawyer or law firm, with knowledge that the lawyer or law firm will not be handling a majority of the cases attracted by advertising, to nonetheless advertise for those cases only to refer the cases to another lawyer whom the client did not initially contact. In addition, a lawyer who advertises for a particular type of case may not mislead the client into believing that the lawyer or law firm will fully represent that client when, in reality, the lawyer or law firm refers all of its non-settling cases to another law firm for trial.