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Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.


Rhode Island Legal Ethics

VII. INFORMATION ABOUT LEGAL SERVICES

7.1   Rule 7.1 Communication's Concerning a Lawyer's Services

7.1:100   Comparative Analysis of Rhode Island Law

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.1
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.1, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary:

7.1:101      Model Rule Comparison

Rhode Island RI Rule 7.1 parallels MR 7.1(a-c) with two exceptions, the addition of subparagraphs (d) and (e). Subparagraph (d) prohibits testimonials about, or endorsements of, a lawyer that do not indicate that they are in fact testimonials or endorsements. Additionally, if the person(s) providing the testimonial or endorsement were compensated the communication must disclose this fact. Communications containing non-client testimonials or endorsements must disclose the fact that the person is not a client of the lawyer. This subparagraph requires that in the event any testimonial or endorsement is featured in a televised advertisement that the foregoing disclosures and identifications appear and remain throughout the advertisement.

7.1:102      Model Code Comparison

Rhode Island has not adopted a Model Code comparison. See MR 7.1 and other jurisdictions.

7.1:200   Lawyer Advertising – In General

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.1
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.2, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary:

7.1:210      Prior Law and the Commercial Speech Doctrine

In Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977) the United States Supreme Court held that since attorney advertising enjoys First Amendment protection the permissible extent of state regulation is extremely limited (total bans on lawyer advertising violated the United States Constitution). "For all practical purposes the only remaining permissible limitation on advertising - as distinct from solicitation - is that it not be misleading." I. G. Hazard, The Law of Lawyering, 508 (1989).

7.1:220      False and Misleading Communications

The rule requires that a description of a law firm be accurate and truthful. The Rules of Professional Conduct expressly allow attorneys engaged in private practice to use trade names provided no connection is implied with public, governmental or charitable organizations and provided the trade name does not otherwise violate RI Rule 7.1; R.I. Eth. Op. 89-10 (1989). An attorney may not make use of a trade name in lieu of his / her real name for advertisement purposes only because the name misleads the public regarding the identity of the lawyer. R.I. Eth. Op. 94-14 (1995).

A law firm must identify on business cards, correspondence and in newspaper announcements that a new associate, although a member of the bar of another state, is not a member of the Rhode Island Bar. R.I. Eth. Op. 90-35 (1990). The new associate may not sign correspondence as an attorney without indicating that he is not admitted to the Rhode Island Bar. See id. Failure to so indicate would constitute a "misleading communication" within the meaning of RI Rule 7.1. See id. A law firm may not publish a newspaper announcement that the new lawyer in question has been hired without indicating that he is not a member of the Rhode Island Bar. See id.

Rhode Island, pursuant to RI Rule 7.2(a), allows lawyers to advertise by various means including outdoor advertising signs; however, advertisements which are ambiguous and lack sufficient facts, such as a sign stating the name of the law firm and the statement "Benefits for the Injured", violate RI Rule 7.1; R.I. Eth. Op. 91-50 (1991).

A law firm may not add to the firm's letterhead the name of an individual who has passed the bar of another state but is ineligible to sit for the Rhode Island bar since he graduated from a non-accredited law school. R.I. Eth. Op. 91-64 (1991). It would be improper to reference the individual as a member of the bar of another state since that would imply that he is eligible to become a lawyer in Rhode Island, which is not the case and would be a violation of RI Rule 7.1, as misleading. See id.

A statement on letterhead that an attorney is certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy is not misleading and therefore not in violation of RI Rule 7.1. See Peel v. Illinois, 496 U.S. 91 (1990). However, the statement of certification on the lawyer's letterhead implies a concentration, which, in turn, requires the disclaimer under RI Rule 7.4. R.I. Eth. Op. 93-39 (1993).

A suspended attorney's name must be removed from the law firm's name during the period of suspension. RI Eth. Op. 2001-07 (2001).

The Rhode Island Disciplinary Board's policy regarding the rules on office sharing states that disclaimers such as "not a partnership" or "association of independent attorneys" is not sufficient to inform the general public that the attorneys are not a law firm. R.I. Eth. Op. 94-12 (1994). The phrase "An Association of Independent Attorneys" creates the appearance of a law firm and is therefore subject to RI Rule 1.10, "Imputed Disqualification." See id. A lawyer's letterhead must not be false or misleading. An attorney may use the designations "Attorney at Law (Retired)" and may indicate applicable academic degrees on his / her letterhead. R.I. Eth. Op. 96-24 (1996). The use of the word "retired" will serve to avoid any implication of the attorney's continued law practice. See id. It clearly indicates the attorney's status and indicates that the attorney is no longer authorized to practice law. See id. However, the designation "Member of the Rhode Island Bar Association" should not be used on the letterhead as it is misleading. See id. Even though such a designation may be truthful, it could be misleading to a lay person, as membership in the bar association implies that a lawyer is eligible to practice law. See id.

The rule does not prohibit a lawyer from indicating on a letterhead or by other forms of communication that the lawyer is also qualified in a different field such as medicine, psychiatry, accounting or marriage counseling. R.I. Eth. Op. 93-73 (1993).

The placement of a sign at an office building where that attorney does not practice law is misleading to the public because it conveys to the public that there is in fact an attorney holding office hours and conducting legal business at the location. R.I. Eth. Op. 94-56 (1994).

A law firm may only designate a lawyer as "of counsel" where there is a close, regular personal relationship between the lawyer and the firm. R.I. Eth. Op. 94-65 (1994). The rule regarding the use of the "of counsel" attorney's name in the firm's title is that if the lawyer is a named partner of the firm and is retiring to become "of counsel," the lawyer's name may be retained in the firm name. See id. This is not true if instead of retiring, the lawyer is withdrawing to practice in another state, to take other employment or is taking a leave of absence. See id. Under such circumstances, the departing "of counsel" attorney may not continue to have his / her name a part of the law firm's name because such inclusion connotes a partnership and is therefore misleading to the public. See id.

The use of an attorney's name for the purposes of solicitation by a non-lawyer violates the Rules of Professional Conduct. R.I. Eth. Op. 95-47 (1995).

7.1:230      Creating Unjustifiable Expectations

Any reference to a prior favorable verdict in an advertisement violates RI Rule 7.1(b) as being misleading notwithstanding the use of disclaimers. R.I. Eth. Op. 93-102 (1993).

Despite the fact that an advertisement is paid for, and run by, a group of clients who are represented by a law firm, the proposed advertisement is subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct. R.I. Eth. Op. 93-101 (1993). Such an advertisement that states that the attorney's law firm provides "top notch legal representation" is subjective and inherently misleading. See id.

7.1:240      Comparison with Other Lawyers

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

7.2   Rule 7.2 Advertising

7.2:100   Comparative Analysis of Rhode Island Rule

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.2
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.2, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary:

7.2:101      Model Rule Comparison

MR 7.2(a) permits lawyer advertising subject to the requirements of MR 7.1, which prohibits false or misleading communications, and MR 7.3 ,which restricts solicitation. RI Rule 7.2(a) subjects the same advertising services to MR 7.1 as does the Model Rule; however, the Rhode Island Rule subjects only "written or recorded communication" to MR 7.3.

MR 7.2(b) provides only that "a recording of an advertisement or communication shall be kept for two years after its last dissemination along with a record of when and where it was used. RI Rule 7.2(b) shares this requirement. Additionally, RI Rule 7.2(b) requires lawyers to send "a copy of each print advertisement (other than a yellow page advertisement), a recording of each radio advertisement, and a videotape of each television advertisement" to the Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel before its first dissemination or within 48 hours of its first dissemination.

RI Rule 7.2(c) is substantially similar to MR 7.2(c) with the exception that RI Rule 7.2(c) omits the particular provision of MR 7.2(c)(3) that provides an exception for a lawyer to pay for a law practice in accordance with MR 1.17.

RI Rule 7.2(d) is identical to MR 7.2(d).

RI Rule 7.2(e) has no counterpart in the Model Rules.

RI Rule 7.2(f) has no counterpart in the Model Rules.

7.2:102      Model Code Comparison

Rhode Island has not adopted a Model code comparison. See MR 7.2 and other jurisdictions.

7.2:200   Permissible Forms of Lawyer Advertising

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.2(a)
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.2(a), Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 81.201, Wolfram § 14.2

It is not improper for an attorney to publish in a newspaper of general circulation an advertisement which states the attorney's name, and the name, time and location of a course the attorney has been invited to conduct by a local municipality, provided they do not contain any false or misleading statements about the attorney or the attorney's services. R.I. Eth. OP. 91-12 (1991).

A law firm may provide legal seminars to clients and non-clients so long as neither the seminar brochures nor the presentation contain recommendations of employment for legal representation. R.I. Eth. Op. 92-55 (1992). The seminar and the brochures do not constitute solicitation even if the seminar's motivation is to generate future business. See id.

Lawyers may place a notice in the newspaper for the purpose of gathering information from the general public regarding a notorious case. R.I. Eth. Op. 93-38 (1993). Such a notice, when not intended to solicit business or clients, is not an advertisement. See id. If the intent was to solicit business, then the attorney would have to comply with the advertising rules. (RI Rules 7.1, 7.5).

An attorney advertisement containing the attorney's name, address, and telephone number on a wall mounted display which is equipped with a telephone for reaching the attorney's office directly by dialing a three digit number is permitted under the rules as long as the attorney follows the guidelines of RI Rule 7.2. R.I. Eth. Op. 92-93 (1993). The Comment to RI Rule 7.2 specifically provides that a lawyer's foreign language ability may be communicated in advertising legal services. R.I. Eth. Op 93-61 (1993).

7.2:300   Retaining Copy of Advertising Material

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.2(b)
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.2(b), Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 81:401, Wolfram § 14.2

RI Rule 7.2(b) requires that a copy of the advertisement must be kept for two (2) years after its last dissemination along with a record of where and when it was last used. R.I. Eth. Op 91-12.

It is quite unreasonable to expect the staff to search out advertisements in each issue; thus the attorney must send a copy of each print advertisement to the Disciplinary Counsel in order to comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct. R.I. Eth. Op 93-9 (1993). If an advertisement addresses the practice of law in Rhode Island, expects to be read or received in Rhode Island, or intends to solicit or invite business in Rhode Island, a copy must be sent to the Disciplinary Counsel. If the advertisement is placed in an out of state medium, which is not intended to be read or received in Rhode Island and does not intend to solicit or invite business in Rhode Island then a copy of that advertisement does not have to be sent to the Disciplinary Counsel. R.I. Eth. Op 93-21, Req. 354 (1993).

7.2:400   Paying to Have Services Recommended

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.2(c)
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.2(c), Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 81.301, Wolfram § 14.2

An attorney who pays a consulting company a fee to advertise her legal services runs afoul of Rule 7.2(c), which prohibits lawyers from giving "anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer's services." RI Eth. Op. 2000-4 (2000).

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has refused to amend Rules 7.2(c)or 5.4(a) to allow lawyers to share court-awarded counsel fees or settlement amounts with nonprofit corporations and associations that refer the case to the lawyer or law firm. In re Rule Amendments to Rules 5.4(a) and 7.2(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, No. 2000-436-M.P., 2002 WL 649020 (R.I. Feb. 15, 2002).

The Rules of Professional Conduct do not prohibit an existing client from recommending the professional services of a lawyer, provided the client is neither paid a fee nor given anything of value in exchange for such a referral. R.I. Eth. Op 96-28 (1996). One exception is that an attorney may "pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit lawyer referral service or legal service organization." R.I. Eth. Op. 95-3 (1995). The "usual charges" includes flat enrollment charges as well as percentage fees. See id. The usual charge of the percentage fee should be reasonable and should not affect the quality of legal services performed by the attorney. See id. The referral fee should not be so great as to infringe upon the lawyer's initiative and enthusiasm regarding the results achieved. See id.

An attorney may not properly give a former client a gift in appreciation for referring a client to the firm for whom the firm recovered a substantial sum of money, even though the former client did not make the referral with any expectation of recompense. R.I. Eth. Op 89-5 (1989). An attorney may not give a gift of appreciation to a physician who refers injured clients to him. RI Eth. Op. 2000-3 (2000).

It is ethically improper under Rule 7.2(c), which prohibits a lawyer from giving anything of value to a person for recommending their services, for a lawyer who undertakes pro bono representation in RI-ACLU sponsored litigation to pay a percentage of court-awarded attorneys' fees to the RI-ACLU. RI Eth. Op. 2000-5 (2000).

The use of an attorney's name for the purposes of solicitation by a non-lawyer violates the Rules of Professional Conduct. R.I. Eth. Op. 95-47 (1995).

The Rhode Island Supreme Court declined to enact amendments to Rules 5.4(a) and 7.2(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct which would permit lawyers to share court awarded counsel fees or a settlement amount derived from a case that would have been eligible for court-awarded counsel fees with nonprofit corporations and associations. The Court reasoned that the receipt by a nonprofit corporation of any part of a fee for legal services would constitute the illegal practice of law. In re Rule Amendments to Rules 5.4(a) and 7.2(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, 815 A.2d 47 (R.I. 2002).

7.2:500   Identification of a Responsible Lawyer

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.2(d)
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.2(d), Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA §§ 81.201, 81:301, Wolfram § 14.2

RI Rule 7.2(d) clearly states that any advertisement by a lawyer must contain the name of an attorney responsible for the content of the ad. R.I. Eth. Op. 95-55 (1995).

7.3   Rule 7.3 Direct Contact with Prospective Clients

7.3:100   Comparative Analysis of Rhode Island Rule

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.3
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.3, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary:

7.3:101      Model Rule Comparison

Rhode Island has adopted the essence of MR 7.3 but has revised the form of the rule in a manner adopted by many states. The Comment makes particular reference to Florida Rule of Professional Conduct 4-7.3 which should be referred to for additional references. Although the RI Rule omits MR 7.3(d) allowing for an exception for prepaid or group legal service plans, the Comment to RI Rule 7.3 incorporates that provision.

7.3:102      Model Code Comparison

Rhode Island has not adopted a Model Code comparison. See MR 7.3 and other jurisdictions.

7.3:200   Prohibition of For-Profit In-Person Solicitation

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.3(a)
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.3(a), Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 81:2001, Wolfram § 14.2.5

A lawyer may not solicit professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship, in person or otherwise, when a significant motive for the lawyer's doing so is the lawyer's pecuniary gain. RI Rule 7.3(a). A lawyer may attend a social gathering of local business people who are not his clients. The Rules do not presume to limit a lawyer's social and civic opportunities or to prohibit a lawyer from a truthful statement of his profession and his professional interest. RI Eth. Op. 89-14 (1989). Announcements to members of the bar are not subject to the requirements and restrictions of RI Rule 7.3. RI Eth. Op. 89-17 (1989). See also RI Eth. Op. 92-22 (1992). A letter advertising legal services sent to homeowners who the lawyer does not know is subject to RI Rule 7.3(b). See Section 7.3:300 infra. See also RI Eth. Op. 90-18 (1990); 91-25(1991); 92-22 (1992); 92-57 (1992); 92-79 (1992); 93-22 (1993); 94-20 (1994); 94-30 (1994); 94-39 (1994); and 95-21 (1995).

An advertisement to be distributed to potential plaintiffs in a proposed class action lawsuit is subject to RI Rule 7.3(b). RI Eth. Op. 91-61 (1991). See also RI Eth. Op. 91-75 (1991). A letter from an attorney to individuals who the lawyer does not know for the purpose of advising clients and others of pending legislation and to encourage them to contact state legislatures does not violate the rules on advertisements. RI Eth. Op. 92-53 (1992). The letters are to inform and not to solicit. See id. See also RI Eth. Op. 96-21 (1996), where it was opined that telephone contacts to directors of senior centers to inquire about their interest in a lecture series on senior issues did not come within RI Rule 7.3 because the communication was not directed to a specific prospective client. An attorney may promote a law related seminar by advertising in newspapers and by direct mail provided the brochures and materials received by the attendees did not promote the attorney's legal services. RI Eth. Op. 93-30 (1993). The Panel opined that the seminar and brochures did not constitute solicitation even if the seminar's motivation was to generate future business. See id. On the other hand an unsolicited mailing or a brochure to prospective clients describing a law firm's services was held to constitute solicitation and be subject to RI Rule 7.3.

Letters to businesses with whom an attorney had no prior relationship inviting the businesses to meet with the attorney's representatives, free of charge, to discuss legal issues affecting the business was held to be a solicitation within RI Rule 7.3 although the attorney alleged that the primary motivation of the letter was to obtain experience in public speaking and to inform businesses of critical legal issues. RI Eth. Op. 95-45 (1995). The Panel opined that although the letter would not request employment from the business, the letter would be considered to be a prohibited solicitation. See id. A direct mailing to all businesses affected by a recent regulatory change to advise of the new requirements and to offer legal assistance with respect thereto was a solicitation under RI Rule 7.3(b). RI Eth. Op. 96-03 (1996). This opinion further held that RI Rule 7.3(b)(2)(a), which prohibits a written communication concerning a specific matter to be sent to a person who the lawyer knows to be represented in that matter, did not apply with respect to other unrelated matters in which the person was not represented. See id. A notice in the newspaper for the purpose of gathering information regarding a pending matter is not a solicitation of business or clients and is not subject to RI Rule 7.3. RI Eth. Op. 93-38 (1993).

Representing an incorporated non-profit association does not permit the attorney to contact its members without compliance with RI Rule 7.3. RI Eth. Op. 94-8 (1994). If a non-lawyer solicits business for an attorney with whom the non-lawyer is associated, the attorney, being responsible for the actions of non-lawyers associated with him/her, must see to it that there is compliance to RI Rule 7.3. RI Eth. Op. 95-47 (1995). Similarly see RI Eth. Op. 96-01 (1996) where RI Rule 7.3 was held to apply to prospective clients who were the employees of a client and who were informed by the employer that the attorney would offer a specific list of legal services to the employees for a pre-determined fee. On the other hand, the Panel also held that the employer may recommend the attorneys legal services to his/her employees independently of the attorney and if the employer undertakes doing so upon his/her own volition, RI Rule 7.3 does not apply. See id. The "professional relationship" exception in RI Rule 7.3 refers to the attorney-client relationship and not to some other business relationship. RI Eth. Op. 96-26 (1996). Therefore, an attorney may not, in the course of selling insurance products, suggest to insurance customers the need for estate planning or other legal services. See id. See also RI Eth. Op. 96-28 (1996); and RI Eth. Op. 96-31 (1996). An attorney may not telephone a pro se party to offer to represent the party at no fee. RI Eth. Op. 98-03 (1998). The call would violate RI Rule 7.3(a). See id. An attorney on a panel of approved attorneys for a pre-paid legal service plan may not announce his/her affiliation with the plan by sending an introductory mass mailing to all plan members without complying with RI Rule 7.3(b). RI Eth. Op. 98-15 (1998).

A telephone call or a letter from an attorney to a person who has been referred to the attorney pursuant to the Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service was held not to be a solicitation. RI Eth. Op. 98-16. The prospective client has not, under these circumstances, initiated the contact for legal services through the Lawyer Referral Service. See id. Therefore, the attorney need not comply with the requirements and restrictions of RI Rule 7.3. See id.. In commenting on RI Rule 7.3(b) concerning the requirements when communicating in writing with a prospective client, the Panel, referring to various exceptions in RI Rule 7.3, not applicable to the instant opinion, stated: "The rule provides exceptions, not applicable here, for situations in which the attorney either has a pre-existing professional or familial relationship with the prospective client or when the communication is part of an effort pro bono publico which will not result in pecuniary gain." RI Eth. Op. 90-15 (1990) (emphasis added). There is no support given for that statement and see RI Eth. Op. 98-03, supra, where an effort to offer pro bono services was held to be subject to RI Rule 7.3.

7.3:210      Solicitation by Non-Profit Public Interest Organization

Contacting a prospective client referred to an attorney through the Bar Association's Lawyers Referral Service is not a prohibited solicitation under RI Rule 7.3. The established policies and procedures of the Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service will be served to eliminate the potential for abuse and overreaching inherent in direct solicitation. The purpose of the Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Services is to make legal services readily available to the public. RI Eth. Op. 98-16 (1998).

7.3:220      Solicitation of Firm Clients by a Departing Lawyer

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

7.3:300   Regulation of Written and Recorded Solicitation

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.3(b)
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.3(b), Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 81:2001, Wolfram § 14.2.5

RI Rule 7.3(b) permits written communications with persons with whom the lawyer has had a family or prior professional relationship.

RI Rule 7.3(b)(1). Written communications to prospective clients with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship are subject to the following requirements: The communication shall be plainly marked "advertisement" on the face of the envelope and at the top of each page of the written communication in type one size larger than the largest type used in the written communication. In addition, a copy of the communication shall be sent to the Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel and the lawyer shall retain another copy for 3 (three) years. If written communications identical in content are sent to 2 (two) or more prospective clients, the lawyer may comply by sending a single copy together with a list of the names and addresses of persons to whom the communication was sent to the Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel. A lawyer is prohibited from sending a written communication to any prospective client for the purpose of obtaining professional employment if: (a) the lawyer knows that the person to whom the communication is directed is represented by a lawyer in the particular matter; (b) the lawyer knows the person does not wish to receive such communication; (c) the communication involves coercion, duress, fraud overreaching harassment, intimidation or undue influence; (d) the communication contains a false statement and/or is improper under RI Rule 7.1; or (e) the lawyer knows the recipient of the communication is in a physical or mental state that makes it unlikely the person would exercise reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer. The RI Ethics Advisory Panel will not edit the form of written communications to determine compliance with RI Rule 7.3(b). RI Eth. Op. 96-28 (1996) and Op. 90-15 (1990).

An attorney is in violation of Rule 7.3(b)(2), which prohibits a lawyer from sending a written solicitation to a person whom she reasonably believes to already have legal counsel in the matter, when that attorney sends a direct mail solicitations to employers that are represented by counsel on matters pending before the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights or the EEOC. RI Eth. Op. 2001-01 (2001).

7.3:400   Disclaimers for Written and Recorded Solicitation

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.3(c)
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.3(c), Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 81:401, Wolfram § 14.2.5

RI Rule 7.3(b) does not require any disclaimers in written communications other than the requirement that the face of the envelope and each page of the written communication be plainly marked "advertisement" in type one size larger than the largest type used in the written communication. The only other "disclaimer" required by the RI Rules is RI Rule 7.4, Communication of Fields of Practice. See Section 7.4:200, infra.

7.3:500   Solicitation by Prepaid and Group Legal Services Plan

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.3(d)
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.3(d), Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 81:2501, Wolfram § 16.5.5

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic. As noted above, the only opinion dealing with Prepaid and Group Legal Service Plans is RI Eth. Op. 98-15 (1998) which required compliance with RI Rule 7.3(b) when an approved attorney on the panel of approved attorneys wished to announce his/her affiliation with the Plan by sending an introductory and mass mailing to all Plan members. On the basis of other opinions on generally related matters reported in this section would appear that solicitation of respective plan members by the administrators of the Plan would not constitute a prohibited solicitation under RI Rule 7.3. See the last paragraph of Comment to RI Rule 7.3.

7.4   Rule 7.4 Communication of Fields of Practice

7.4:100   Comparative Analysis of Rhode Island Rule

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.4
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.4, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary:

7.4:101      Model Rule Comparison

RI Rule 7.4 captures the spirit of MR 7.4 in that a lawyer may disclose to a client that he does or does not practice in a particular area of law. In addition, it prohibits a lawyer from indicating that he is a specialist except in the areas of patent and trademark law and admiralty. RI Rule 7.4 differs from MR 7.4 in that it requires that if an attorney puts forth that his or her practice is concentrated in a certain area of law, he or she must also indicate that "the Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law. The Court does not license or certify any lawyer as an expert or specialist in any field of practice."

7.4:102      Model Code Comparison

Rhode Island has not adopted a Model Code comparison. See MR 7.4 and other jurisdictions.

7.4:200   Regulation of Claims of Certification and Specialization

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.4
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.4, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA §§ 21:4001, 81:501, Wolfram § 14.2.4

RI Rule 7.4 expressly permits an attorney to indicate the fact that she does or does not practice in particular fields of law, but also expressly prohibits a lawyer from implying that he or she is a specialist. RI Eth. Op. 90-10 (1990). Therefore, in order to meet the requirements of RI Rule 7.4 an attorney indicating the extent of his/her practice must include the disclaimer set forth in the rule to the effect that no procedure exists in Rhode Island for certification or recognition of specialization by lawyers. See id. See also, e.g., RI Eth. Op. 90.18 (1990); RI Eth. Op. 90.25 (1990); RI Eth. Op. 90.30 (1990); RI Eth. Op. 92.72 (1992); RI Eth. Op. 93.103 (1993).

7.5   Rule 7.5 Firm Names and Letterheads

7.5:100   Comparative Analysis of Rhode Island Rule

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.5
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.5, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary:

7.5:101      Model Rule Comparison

Rhode Island has adopted MR 7.5, including the Comments thereto.

7.5:102      Model Code Comparison

Rhode Island has not adopted a Model Code comparison. See MR 7.5 and other jurisdictions.

7.5:200   Firm Names and Trade Names

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.5(a)
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.5(a), Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 81:3001, Wolfram § 14.2.4

When RI Rule 7.5 was adopted, the Rhode Island Supreme Court did not seek to change Supreme Court Rule 41(h). RI Eth. Op. 89-10 (1989). Supreme Court Rule 41(h) authorizes attorneys to practice law in the form of public professional service corporations, so long as the corporation is licensed as such and the name of one or more of its attorney-employees is used in the name of the corporation. See id. Additionally, the name shall end with the word "corporation" or "incorporated" or the abbreviation of either one. See id.

Use of firm business cards by a new associate who will be taking the Rhode Island Bar Exam in a few months, without indicating on such business cards that he is not a member of the Rhode Island Bar, would violate RI Rule 7.5(a). RI Eth. Op. 90.35 (1990).

Use of a trade name such as "The Woman's Law Center", that implies a connection with a charitable legal services organization is likely to be misleading to the public and is impermissible under RI Rule 7.5(a). RI Eth. Op. 94.27 (1994). A trade name that includes a geographical term, such as "Springfield Legal Clinic", must include an express disclaimer indicating that it is not a public legal aid agency. RI Eth. Op. 95.37 (1995).

A suspended attorney's name must be removed from the law firm's name during the period of suspension. RI Eth. Op. 2001-07 (2001).

7.5:300   Law Firms with Offices in More Than One Jurisdiction

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.5(b)
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.5(b), Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 81:3001, Wolfram § 15.4

An out of state law firm may establish a firm in Rhode Island even though none of the partners of the out-of-state firm that are listed in the firm name are members of the Rhode Island Bar Association, so long as the firm follows the jurisdictional requirements of this Rule. RI Eth. Op. 89-11 (1989).

It is permissible for a Rhode Island law firm, which is organized as a professional corporation to form a partnership with an out-of-state law firm, so long as the identification of lawyers complies with RI Rule 7.5(b). RI Eth. Op. 91.14 (1991).

An attorney cannot use an out-of-state firm's name and practice under such with the designation "of counsel." RI Eth. Op. 90-20 (1990). If that attorney was an associate or a partner of that firm such a practice of working individually in Rhode Island under the out-of-state firm's name would be permissible. See id.

7.5:400   Use of the Name of a Public Official

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.5(c)
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.5(c), Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 81:3001, Wolfram § 14.2.4

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

7.5:500   Misleading Designation as Partnership, etc.

• Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 7.5(d)
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 7.5(d), Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 81:3001, ALI-LGL § 58, Wolfram § 14.2.4

Because it would tend to connote partnership, an attorney who withdraws as a partner in a firm but remains "of counsel" cannot continue to include his name in the firm name. RI Eth. Op. 94-65 (1994).

To avoid the appearance of a partnership or other affiliation where none exists, individual attorneys who wish to share an office must have separate stationary, letterhead, business cards, phone numbers, pleading papers, files, bank accounts, and financial records. RI Eth. Op. 90-16 (1990); RI Eth. Op. 94-12 (1994). Phones must be answered with either a single attorney's name alone or with a neutral salutation such as "Law Offices" which does not give rise to the appearance of an association. RI Eth. Op. 90-16 1990). Sharing a secretary and office expenses is permitted, however. RI Eth. Op. 93-66 (1993). Also, placing all of the attorneys' names vertically in advertisements and on the office's sign that read "an association of independent attorneys" is permissible. RI Eth. Op. 93-66 (1993).

Where independent attorneys share office space, maintaining separate insurance policies, bank accounts, and stationary so as not to confuse or mislead the public, one attorney is not disqualified under RI Rule 1.10 from practicing before a municipal entity of the city in which the other attorney serves as a member of the city council. RI Eth. Op. 92-33 (1992). The described office sharing is not a law firm and thus does not give rise to imputed disqualification. See id.