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ABA Modernizes Lawyer Advertising Will Ohio Follow

Lawyer advertising rules, two lawyers at a computer together

During the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Annual Meeting in August, leaders of the legal profession adopted broad amendments to lawyer advertising rules after a four-year study by the ABA, the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL) and the National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC). These organizations compiled substantial empirical data regarding enforcement of current advertising rules, discovering:

  • State variations from the Model Rules between jurisdictions creates a big problem for lawyers who advertise and practice in more than one state;
  • Complaints about lawyer advertising (except by lawyers against other lawyers) are rare and most are handled informally;
  • Many advertising cases in which discipline has been imposed involve violations involving dishonesty or misrepresentation.

Given these realities, the principal amendments include:

  • Consolidating regulations on false and misleading communications into Rule 7.1 and clarifying key terms such as “misleading” and “truthful.”
  • Combining specific advertising regulations into Rule 7.2, including use of the term “certified specialist.”
  • Allowing nominal “thank-you gifts” under limited circumstances as an exception to paying for recommendations.
  • Defining solicitation as “a communication initiated by or on behalf of a lawyer or law firm that is directed to a specific person …in a particular matter and that offers to provide…legal services for that matter.”
  • Prohibiting live, person-to-person solicitation for pecuniary gain with certain exceptions such as for sophisticated clients.
  • Eliminating the labeling requirement (“Advertising Material”) for targeted mailings but continue to bar targeted mailings that are misleading and involve coercion or harassment.

Some states are already moving forward to adopt these many or all of these changes. Will Ohio join them?