Kevin W. Brown, M.B.A. recently attended a Bar CLE course on the new State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct, “Avoiding a State Bar Complaint: Review of Some Key Rules of Professional Conduct.” There are a number of changes that attorneys have noted with the new rules – and of particular interest to The Specialists in Law Firm Marketing are “Rule 7.1 Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services,” “Rule 7.2 Advertising” and “Rule 7.3 Solicitation of Clients.” These are all under “Chapter 7, Information About Legal Services.” Previously, under the old rules, Rule 1-400 addressed “Advertising and Solicitation.”
Of course, The Specialists in Law Firm Marketing are not lawyers and we aren’t interpreting the law, only trying to understand it from attorneys so that we can do the best job possible in marketing our clients. There are a number of sections in Chapter 7 that are very important in marketing law firms, most of which don’t seem to be much different than in the past but appear to be aimed at clarifying questionable items. Here are a few areas that we find interesting:
The old rules had lengthy sections dealing with definitions and standards for “communication” and combined the term “solicitation,” which were confusing to many in terms of application. The new rule 7.1 should be read by any person involved in marketing a law firm.
For example, “A communication that truthfully reports a lawyer’s achievements on behalf of clients or former clients, or a testimonial about or endorsement of the lawyer, may be misleading if presented so as to lead a reasonable* person* to form an unjustified expectation that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances of each client’s case.”
A non-lawyer drafting such content for marketing materials should be made aware of these standards, and the final draft should be carefully reviewed by an attorney at the firm. This can be a particularly important issue when hiring a website development firm or ad agency to write content that will be read by the public, especially if that firm does not specialize in marketing lawyers.