7.01 Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services

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(a) A lawyer shall not make or sponsor a false or misleading communication about the qualifications or services of a lawyer or law firm. Information about legal services must be truthful and nondeceptive. A communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading. A statement is misleading if there is a substantial likelihood that it will lead a reasonable person to formulate a specific conclusion about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services for which there is no reasonable factual foundation, or if the statement is substantially likely to create unjustified expectations about the results the lawyer can achieve.

(b) This Rule governs all communications about a lawyer’s services, including advertisements and solicitation communications. For purposes of Rules 7.01 to 7.06:

(1) An “advertisement” is a communication substantially motivated by pecuniary gain that is made by or on behalf of a lawyer to members of the public in general, which offers or promotes legal services under circumstances where the lawyer neither knows nor reasonably should know that the recipients need legal services in particular matters.

(2) A “solicitation communication” is a communication substantially motivated bypecuniary gain that is made by or on behalf of a lawyer to a specific person who has not sought the lawyer’s advice or services, which reasonably can be understood as offering to provide legal services that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know the person needs in a particular matter.

(c) Lawyers may practice law under a trade name that is not false or misleading. A law firm name may include the names of current members of the firm and of deceased or retired members of the firm, or of a predecessor firm, if there has been a succession in the firm identity. The name of a lawyer holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm. A law firm with an office in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name or other professional designation in each jurisdiction, but identification of the lawyers in an office of the firm shall indicate the jurisdictional limitations on those not licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the office is located.

(d) A statement or disclaimer required by these Rules shall be sufficiently clear that it can reasonably be understood by an ordinary person and made in each language used in the communication. A statement that a language is spoken or understood does not require a statement or disclaimer in that language.

(e) A lawyer shall not state or imply that the lawyer can achieve results in the representation by unlawful use of violence or means that violate these Rules or other law.

(f) A lawyer may state or imply that the lawyer practices in a partnership or other business entity only when that is accurate.

(g) If a lawyer who advertises the amount of a verdict secured on behalf of a client knows that the verdict was later reduced or reversed, or that the case was settled for a lesser amount, the lawyer must state in each advertisement of the verdict, with equal or greater prominence, the amount of money that was ultimately received by the client.

Comment:

1. This Rule governs all communications about a lawyer’s services, including firm names, letterhead, and professional designations. Whatever means are used to make known a lawyer’s services, statements about them must be truthful and not misleading. As subsequent provisions make clear, some rules apply only to “advertisements” or “solicitation communications.” A statement about a lawyer’s services falls within those categories only if it was “substantially motivated by pecuniary gain,” which means that pecuniary gain was a substantial factor in the making of the statement.

Misleading Truthful Statements

2. Misleading truthful statements are prohibited by this Rule. For example, a truthful statement is misleading if presented in a way that creates a substantial likelihood that a reasonable person would believe the lawyer’s communication requires that person to take further action when, in fact, no action is required.

Use of Actors

3. The use of an actor to portray a lawyer in a commercial is misleading if there is a substantial likelihood that a reasonable person will conclude that the actor is the lawyer who is offering to provide legal services. Whether a disclaimer—such as a statement that the depiction is a “dramatization” or shows an “actor portraying a lawyer”—is sufficient to make the use of an actor not misleading depends on a careful assessment of the relevant facts and circumstances, including whether the disclaimer is conspicuous and clear. Similar issues arise with respect to actors portraying clients in commercials. Such a communication is misleading if there is a substantial likelihood that a reasonable person will reach erroneous conclusions based on the dramatization.

Intent to Refer Prospective Clients to Another Firm

4. A communication offering legal services is misleading if, at the time a lawyer makes the communication, the lawyer knows or reasonably should know, but fails to disclose, that a prospective client responding to the communication is likely to be referred to a lawyer in another firm.

Unjustified Expectations

5. A communication is misleading if there is a substantial likelihood that it will create unjustified expectations on the part of prospective clients about the results that can be achieved. A communication that truthfully reports results obtained by a lawyer on behalf of clients or former clients 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. Depending on the facts and circumstances, the inclusion of an appropriate disclaimer or qualifying language may preclude a finding that a statement is likely to mislead the public.

Required Statements and Disclaimers

6. A statement or disclaimer required by these Rules must be presented clearly and conspicuously such that it is likely to be noticed and reasonably understood by an ordinary person. In radio, television, and Internet advertisements, verbal statements must be spoken in a manner that their content is easily intelligible, and written statements must appear in a size and font, and for a sufficient length of time, that a viewer can easily see and read the statements.

Unsubstantiated Claims and Comparisons

7. An unsubstantiated claim about a lawyer’s or law firm’s services or fees, or an unsubstantiated comparison of the lawyer’s or law firm’s services or fees with those of other lawyers or law firms, may be misleading if presented with such specificity as to lead a reasonable person to conclude that the comparison or claim can be substantiated.

Public Education Activities

8. As used in these Rules, the terms “advertisement” and “solicitation communication” do not include statements made by a lawyer that are not substantially motivated by pecuniary gain. Thus, communications which merely inform members of the public about their legal rights and about legal services that are available from public or charitable legal-service organizations, or similar non-profit entities, are permissible, provided they are not misleading. These types of statements may be made in a variety of ways, including community legal education sessions, know-your-rights brochures, public service announcements on television and radio, billboards, information posted on organizational social media sites, and outreach to low-income groups in the community, such as in migrant labor housing camps, domestic violence shelters, disaster resource centers, and dilapidated apartment complexes.

Web Presence

9. A lawyer or law firm may be designated by a distinctive website address, e-mail address, social media username or comparable professional designation that is not misleading and does not otherwise violate these Rules.

Past Success and Results

10.A communication about legal services may be misleading because it omits an important fact or tells only part of the truth. A lawyer who knows that an advertised verdict was later reduced or reversed, or that the case was settled for a lesser amount, must disclose those facts with equal or greater prominence to avoid creating unjustified expectations on the part of potential clients. A lawyer may claim credit for a prior judgement or settlement only if the lawyer played asubstantial role in obtaining that result. This standard is satisfied if the lawyer served as lead counsel or was primarily responsible for the settlement. In other cases, whether the standard is met depends on the facts. A lawyer who did not play a substantial role in obtaining an advertised judgment or settlement is subject to discipline for misrepresenting the lawyer’s experience and, in some cases, for creating unjustified expectations about the results the lawyer can achieve.

Related Rules

11. It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. See Rule 8.04(a)(3); see also Rule 8.04(a)(5) (prohibiting communications stating or implying an ability to improperly influence a government agency or (official).

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