ABA Model Rules and 2018 Resolution 101…Baby Steps
The ABA has revised Model Rules of Professional Conduct 7.1 – 7.5 relating to lawyer advertising. It has been a long time coming; a small step in the right direction. Our industry still has much work to do to modernize rules on lawyer communications, as it often moves at a snail’s pace in a race dominated by stallions.
The ABA Model Rules only become effective if and when each state adopts them. Do not rely on these changes before they are officially adopted.
Rules changed by ABA Resolution 101:
- 1: Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services
- 2: Advertising
- 3: Solicitation of Clients
- 4: Communication of Fields of Practice and Specialization
- 5: Firm Names and Letterheads
Why the revisions?
- To encourage national uniformity.
- To increase access to justice.
- To address technology, competition and cross-border practices.
- To protect the public from false and misleading communications.
- To relieve regulators of unnecessary burdens.
The big picture is that the changes:
- Permit nominal “thank you” gifts for referrals.
- Prohibit live solicitation.
- Eliminate labeling requirements for targeted mailings.
- Prohibit misleading, coercive, or harassing mailings.
- The rules use the term “communication” rather than advertising
Skepticism among legal marketers (issues raised):
- Don’t the changes merely approve conduct that lawyers have engaged in for years?
- Don’t the new rules simply state the obvious?
- Is this really a game-changer?
- Aren’t the rules antiquated before they even take effect?
- Does this confirm that the process is neither expedient nor progressive?
- Will advertising issues matter in a few years if/when lawyers are no longer the preferred providers of legal services?
For more information read Gina Rubel’s article in The Mid-Market Report, “Legal Marketing and Ethics Experts: ABA Model Rule Changes Are Too Little, Too Late“