ABA Commission On Ethics Recommends No New Restrictions on Lawyer Marketing

aba commission on ethics, lawyer marketing, legal marketing, business develpmentHere's some good news: the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 recommends no new restrictions on online lawyer marketing!

The Commission on Ethics 20/20 today released its 18-page initial proposal for comment on lawyers’ use of technology-based client development tools.  While not recommending any new restrictions on lawyer advertising, the draft suggests more clarity is needed for lawyers’ obligations when they use new forms of technology to disseminate information regarding legal services and seek to develop clients. 

It appears the ABA listened to the comments that came in after ABA Commission on Ethics Seeks Ways to Regulate Online Lawyer Marketing and ABA May Destroy Internet Marketing Advantage for Solos and Small Firms and ABA Ethics Study of Online Marketing Will Stifle Online Marketing appeared.

The recommendations provide clarification in three areas:

  • Where electronic communications may inadvertently give rise to a prospective client-lawyer relationship.  The report identifies precautions that lawyers should take to prevent the inadvertent creation of such a relationship and to ensure that the public does not misunderstand the consequences of communicating electronically with a lawyer.
  • Types of Internet-based client development tools that lawyers are permitted to use, particularly related to an ambiguity regarding the prohibition against paying others for a “recommendation.”  The draft proposal clarifies that a recommendation should be deemed to exist only when someone endorses or vouches for a lawyer’s credentials, abilities, or qualities.
  • When a lawyer’s online communications constitute “solicitations.”  The draft proposal clarifies that communications directed to the general public, responsive to a request for information, and advertisements generated in response to Internet searches are not “solicitations.”

The Commission's proposals and an accompanying report can be found here.

“Though the Model Rules were written before these technologies had been invented, their prohibition of false and misleading communications apply just as well to online advertising and other forms of electronic communications that are used to attract new clients today,” said Commission Co-Chair Jamie Gorelick, a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP in Washington, D.C.  “We didn’t need to change much,” she added.

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