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Rule 7.1 Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services

(a) A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services. A communication is false or misleading if it:

(1) contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading;

(2) is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law; or

(3) compares the lawyer's services with other lawyers' services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated.

 

(b) A communication by a lawyer that contains a dramatization depicting a fictional situation is misleading unless it complies with paragraph (a) above and contains a conspicuous written or oral statement, at the beginning and the end of the communication, explaining that the communication contains a dramatization and does not depict actual events or real persons.

Comment

[1] This Rule governs all communications about a lawyer's services, including advertising permitted by Rule 7.2. Whatever means are used to make known a lawyer's services, statements about them must be truthful.

[2] Truthful statements that are misleading are also prohibited by this Rule. A truthful statement is misleading if it omits a fact necessary to make the lawyer's communication considered as a whole not materially misleading. A truthful statement is also 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.

[3] An advertisement that truthfully reports a lawyer's achievements 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. Similarly, an unsubstantiated comparison of the lawyer's services or fees with the services or fees of other lawyers may be misleading if presented with such specificity as would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the comparison can be substantiated. The inclusion of an appropriate disclaimer or qualifying language may preclude a finding that a statement is likely to create unjustified expectations or otherwise mislead the public.

[4] See also Rule 8.4(e) for the prohibition against stating or implying an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official or to achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

History Note: Statutory Authority G.S. 84-23

Adopted July 24, 1997; Amended March 1, 2003.

Amended October 2, 2014

Ethics Opinion Notes

CPR 253. A paralegal employed by a law firm may have a business card with the firm's identification.

CPR 262. A law firm's office manager may have a business card with the firm's identification.

RPC 5. Opinion rules that attorney holding a Juris Doctor degree may not on that basis refer to himself as holding a Doctorate or use the term "Doctor" to refer to himself.

RPC 135. Opinion rules that lawyers may not participate in a private lawyer referral service that advertises that its participants are "the best."

RPC 161. Opinion rules that a television commercial for legal services which fails to mention that bankruptcy is the debt relief described in the commercial and which describes results obtained for others is misleading.

RPC 217. Opinion rules that a local or remote call forwarding telephone number may not be included in an advertisement for legal services disseminated in a community where the law firm has neither an office nor a lawyer present in the community unless an explanation is included in the advertisement.

RPC 239. Opinion rules that a lawyer may display truthful information about the lawyer's legal services on a World Wide Web site on the Internet.

RPC 241. Opinion rules that a lawyer may participate in a directory of lawyers on the Internet if the information about the lawyer in the directory is truthful.

97 Formal Ethics Opinion 6. Opinion rules that the omission of the lawyer's address from a targeted direct mail letter is a material misrepresentation.

99 Formal Ethics Opinion 7. Opinion rules that a law firm may not state in a direct mail letter that lawyers in the firm have obtained jury verdicts of specified amounts because the statement may create unjustified expectations about the results the lawyers can achieve.

2000 Formal Ethics Opinion 1. Opinion rules that, in the absence of a full explanation, advertising a lawyer's or a law firm's record in obtaining favorable verdicts is misleading and prohibited.

2000 Formal Ethics Opinion 3. Opinion rules a lawyer may respond to an inquiry posted on a web page message board provided there are certain disclosures.

2000 Formal Ethics Opinion 6. Opinion rules that a television advertisement for legal services that implies that an insurance company will settle a claim more quickly because the advertised lawyer represents the claimant is misleading.

2000 Formal Ethics Opinion 9. Opinion explores the situations in which a lawyer who is also a CPA may provide legal services and accounting services from the same office.

2003 Formal Ethics Opinion 3. Opinion rules that a lawyer may advertise that he is a member of an organization with a self-laudatory title, provided it is a legitimate, disinterested organization with objective and verifiable standards for admission.

2004 Formal Ethics Opinion 7. Opinion rules that it is misleading to advertise the number of years of experience of the lawyers with a firm without indicating that it is the combined legal experience of all of the lawyers with the firm.

2004 Formal Ethics Opinion 8. Opinion rules that unless the lawyer invariably makes the repayment of costs advanced contingent upon the outcome of each matter, an advertisement for legal services that states that there is no fee unless there is a recovery must also state that costs advanced must be repaid at the conclusion of the matter.

2004 Formal Ethics Opinion 9. Opinion rules that a trade name for a law firm that implies an affiliation with a financial planning company is misleading and prohibited.

2005 Formal Ethics Opinion 2. Opinion rules that a law firm that employs a nonlawyer to represent Social Security claimants must so disclose to prospective clients and in any advertising for this service.

2005 Formal Ethics Opinion 14. Opinion rules that the URL for a law firm website does not have to include words that identify the site as belonging to a law firm provided the URL is not otherwise misleading.

2006 Formal Ethics Opinion 6. Opinion rules that a lawyer may put extraneous statements on the envelope of a solicitation letter provided the statements do not mislead the recipient and the font used for the statements is smaller than the font used for the advertising disclaimer required by Rule 7.3(c).

2007 Formal Ethics Opinion 5. Opinion rules that a lawyer may use the title "doctor" but only in a post-secondary school academic setting.

2007 Formal Ethics Opinion 14. Opinion rules a lawyer may advertise the lawyer's inclusion in the list of lawyers in North Carolina Super Lawyers and other similar publications and may advertise in such publications subject to certain conditions

2009 Formal Ethics Opinion 16. Opinion rules that a website may include a case summary section showcasing successful verdicts and settlements if the section contains factually accurate information accompanied by an appropriate disclaimer and that any reference on the website to membership in an organization with a self-laudatory name must comply with the requirements of 2003 FEO 3.

2010 Formal Ethics Opinion 4. Opinion provides guidelines for participation in a barter exchange.

2010 Formal Ethics Opinion 6. Opinion rules that a lawyer may place an advertisement for employment in practice areas in which the lawyer does not have experience only if the lawyer intends to provide competent representation either by promptly obtaining competence through study and investigation or by associating a lawyer who is competent in those particular areas of law. If, at the time the advertisement is placed, it is likely the lawyer will associate more experienced lawyers to handle the resulting cases, that fact should be disclosed to the public in the advertisement.

2010 Formal Ethics Opinion 9. Opinion rules that a dramatization disclaimer is not required when using a stock photograph in an advertisement so long as, in the context of the advertisement, the stock photograph is not materially misleading.

2010 Formal Ethics Opinion 10. Opinion rules that a law firm may charge a client for the expenses associated with an out-of-office consultation so long as advertisements referencing the service indicate that the client will be charged for the service and the client consents to the charge prior to the visit.

2010 Formal Ethics Opinion 11. Opinion rules that a lawyer may list membership in Million Dollar Advocates Forum, or another organization with a self-laudatory name, on his letterhead only if a disclaimer of similar results and information about the criteria for membership also appears on the letterhead.

2010 Formal Ethics Opinion 14.

2011 Formal Ethics Opinion 9 . Opinion rules that a lawyer may not allow a person who is not employed by or affiliated with the lawyer’s firm to use firm letterhead.

2011 Formal Ethics Opinion 10. Opinion rules that a lawyer may advertise on a website that offers daily discounts to consumers where the website company’s compensation is a percentage of the amount paid to the lawyer if certain disclosures are made and certain conditions are satisfied.

2012 Formal Ethics Opinion 1. Opinion rules that testimonials that discuss characteristics of a lawyer’s client service may be used in lawyer advertising without the use of a disclaimer. Testimonials that refer generally to results may be used so long as the testimonial is accompanied by an appropriate disclaimer. The reference to specific dollar amounts in client testimonials is prohibited.

2012 Formal Ethics Opinion 6. Opinion rules that a law firm may use a leased time-shared office address or a post office address to satisfy the address disclosure requirement for advertising communications in Rule 7.2(c) so long as certain requirements are met.

2012 Formal Ethics Opinion 8. Opinion rules that a lawyer may ask a former client for a recommendation to be posted on the lawyer’s profile on a professional networking website and may accept a recommendation if certain conditions are met.

2012 Formal Ethics Opinion 10. Opinion rules a lawyer may not participate as a network lawyer for a company providing litigation or administrative support services for clients with a particular legal/business problem unless certain conditions are satisfied.

2014 Formal Ethics Opinion 8. Opinion rules that a lawyer may accept an invitation from a judge to be a "connection" on a professional networking website, and may endorse a judge. However, a lawyer may not accept a legal skill or expertise endorsement or a recommendation from a judge.

2015 Formal Ethics Opinion 3. Opinion rules that a lawyer may not offer a computer tablet to a prospective client in a direct mail solicitation letter.

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