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Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.

Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct


Comment - Rule 7.2

[1] Advertisements and public communications, whether in reputable legal directories, telephone directories, or newspapers, should be formulated to convey only information that is necessary for the client to make an appropriate selection. Competency may be a factor in the selection of a lawyer. However, competency cannot be determined from an advertisement. The cost of legal services may also be a factor in the selection of a lawyer. A layperson may be aided in the selection of a lawyer if the costs of legal services were available for comparison or could be considered in an atmosphere conducive to logic, reason, and reflection. This factual information can be made available through advertising. Care must be exercised to ensure that there is a proper basis for the comparison of costs communicated in a manner that will truthfully inform, and not mislead, a prospective client as to the total costs. For example, to state an hourly charge and to characterize it as a “reasonable fee” is misleading because the total cost or fee can vary greatly depending upon the number of hours spent.

[2] The lack of sophistication on the part of many members of the public concerning legal services and the importance of the interests affected by the choice of a lawyer require that special care be taken by lawyers to avoid misleading the public and to ensure that the information set forth in any advertising is relevant to the selection of a lawyer. The lawyer must be mindful that the benefits to the public of a lawyer’s advertising depend upon its reliability and accuracy. Advertising marked by excesses of content, volume, scope or frequency, or which unduly emphasizes unrepresentative biographical information, does not provide that public benefit. Fee advertising involves special concerns. With rare exception, lawyers render unique and varied services for each client, even as to so-called “routine” matters. When consulted about any matter, whether or not “routine,” a lawyer should make relevant inquiries, which may uncover the need for different services than those that the client originally sought. These factors make it difficult to set a fixed fee or a range of fees for a specific legal service in advance of rendering the service and provide temptation to depart from an advertised fee or to fail to render a needed service. Thus, a lawyer who advertises a fee for a service should exercise particular caution to avoid misleading prospective clients and should include appropriate disclaimers. A lawyer should also scrupulously avoid the use of fee advertising as an indirect means of attracting clients in the hope of performing other, more lucrative, legal services. In communications concerning a lawyer’s fees, the lawyer may use restrained subjective characterizations of rates or fees such as “reasonable,” “moderate,” and “very reasonable,” but shall avoid all unrestrained subjective characterizations of rates or fees, such as, but not limited to, “cut‑rate,” “lowest,” “giveaway,” “below‑cost,” “discount,” and “special.”

[3] All disclosures required to be published by these rules shall be in 9-point type or larger. Whenever a disclosure or notice is required by these rules, a lawyer or law firm hosting a site on the World Wide Web shall display the required disclosure or notice on the site’s home page.

[4] Nothing contained in these rules shall prohibit a lawyer from permitting the inclusion in reputable law lists and law directories intended primarily for the use of the legal profession of such information as traditionally has been included in these publications whether published in print or on the Internet or other electronic system.

[5] Any member of the bar desiring to expand the information authorized for disclosure pursuant to this rule or to provide for its dissemination through forums other than as authorized herein, may file an application with the supreme court specifying the requested change. Court approval of the application is required before an attorney may engage in advertising that includes the expanded information or is disseminated through the new forum.

[6] When the court receives a request to expand or constrict the list of “specific legal services” in rule 32:7.2(h)(3), it will consider the following criteria in determining which services should be included in the list:

(1) the description of the service would not be misunderstood by the average layperson or be misleading or deceptive;

(2) substantially all of the service normally can be performed in the lawyer’s office with the aid of standardized forms and office procedures;

(3) the service does not normally involve a substantial amount of legal research, drafting of unique documents, investigation, court appearances, or negotiation with other parties or their attorneys; and

(4) competent performance of the service normally does not depend upon ascertainment and consideration of more than a few varying factual circumstances.