Rule 7.1 Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services
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 contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading. Such communications include but are not limited to a statement that is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve; a statement that states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law; or a statement that compares the lawyer's services with other lawyers’ services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated.
False and Misleading Communications
 This Rule governs all communications about a lawyer's services, including advertising. Whatever means are used to make known a lawyer's services, statements about them must be truthful.
 Misleading truthful statements 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. A truthful statement is also 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.
 A communication 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 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 would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the comparison or claim 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.
 It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. Rule 8.4(c). See also Rule 8.4(e) for the prohibition against stating or implying an ability to improperly influence a government agency or official or to achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.
Firm Names, Letterheads, and Professional Designations
 Firm names, letterhead and professional designations are communications concerning a lawyer’s services. A firm may be designated by the names of all or some of its current principals or by the names of deceased or retired principals where there has been a succession in the firm’s identity. The name of a retired principal may be used in the name of a law firm only if the principal has ceased the practice of law. A lawyer or law firm also may be designated by a trade name, a distinctive website address, social media username or comparable professional designation that is not misleading. A law firm name or designation is misleading if it implies a connection with a government agency, with a deceased or retired lawyer who was not a former principal of the firm, with a lawyer not associated with the firm or a predecessor firm, with a nonlawyer or with a public or charitable legal services organization. If a firm uses a trade name that includes a geographical name such as “Springfield Legal Clinic,” an express statement explaining that it is not a public or charitable legal services organization may be required to avoid a misleading implication.
 A law firm with offices 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.
 Lawyers may not imply or hold themselves out as practicing together in one firm when they are not a firm, as defined in Rule 1.0(d), because to do so would be false and misleading. It is also misleading to use a designation such as “Smith and Associates” for a solo practice.
 This Rule does not prohibit the employment by a law firm of a lawyer who is licensed to practice in another jurisdiction, but not in North Carolina, provided the lawyer's practice is exclusively limited to areas that do not require a North Carolina law license. The lawyer's name may be included in the firm letterhead, provided all communications by such lawyer on behalf of the firm indicate the jurisdiction in which the lawyer is licensed as well as the fact that the lawyer is not licensed in North Carolina.
 If law offices are maintained in another jurisdiction, the law firm is an interstate law firm and must register with the North Carolina State Bar as required by 27 N.C. Admin. Code 1E.0200 et seq.
 Dramatizations of fictional cases in video advertisements are potentially misleading. See 2010 FEO 9, RPC 164. A communication by a lawyer that contains a dramatization depicting a fictional situation is not misleading if 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.
History Note: Statutory Authority G.S. 84-23
Adopted by the Supreme Court: July 24, 1997
Amendments Approved by the Supreme Court: March 1, 2003; October 2, 2014; April 21, 2021
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 25. Opinion rules that a North Carolina firm may not list a lawyer licensed elsewhere, but not in North Carolina, as "of counsel" or as a "consulting attorney."
RPC 31. Opinion rules that a law firm in North Carolina may not list on its letterhead a "corresponding" attorney in another location.
RPC 34. Opinion rules that an attorney may be designated as "of counsel" to a North Carolina law firm so long as the attorney is licensed in North Carolina and will have a close, in-house association with the firm which does not involve conflicts of Interest.
RPC 85. Opinion rules that an "of counsel" relationship may exist between lawyers practicing in different towns if the professional relationship is close, regular and personal and the designation is not otherwise false or misleading.
RPC 126. Opinion rules that nonlawyers may be listed as such on the letterhead of lawyers.
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 8. Opinion rules that the URL for a law firm website is a trade name that must register with the North Carolina State Bar and meet the requirements of Rule 7.5(a).
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).
2006 Formal Ethics Opinion 20. Opinion rules that a law firm may not continue to use a former member's surname in the law firm name if the member continues the practice of law with another firm.
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 - Withdrawn. 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. Opinion rules that it is a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct for a lawyer to select another lawyer's name as a keyword for use in an Internet search engine company's search-based advertising program.
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.
2015 Formal Ethics Opinion 9 . Opinion rules that a lawyer who does not own equity in a law firm may be held out to the public by the designation “partner,” “income partner,” or “non-equity partner,” provided the lawyer was officially promoted based upon legitimate criteria and the lawyer complies with the professional responsibilities arising from the designation.
2017 Formal Ethics Opinion 1. Opinion rules that lawyers may advertise through a text message service that allows the user to initiate live telephone communication.
2017 Formal Ethics Opinion 3. Opinion rules that a billboard advertisement need not contain the lawyer’s name, firm name, or the firm’s office address if the URL address on the advertisement lands on the lawyer’s website where such information can be easily found.
2018 Formal Ethics Opinion 1. Opinion explains when a lawyer may participate in an online rating system, and a lawyer’s professional responsibility for the content posted on a profile on a website directory.
2018 Formal Ethics Opinion 3. Opinion rules that the name of a lawyer who is under an active suspension must be removed from the firm name within a reasonable period of time.
2018 Formal Ethics Opinion 8. Opinion rules that a lawyer may advertise the lawyer’s inclusion in a list or membership in an organization that bestows a laudatory designation on the lawyer subject to certain conditions.
2019 Formal Ethics Opinion 6. Opinion rules that, depending on the function of the social media platform, offering an incentive to engage with a law practice’s social media account is misleading and constitutes an improper exchange for a recommendation of the law practice’s services.
2020 Formal Ethics Opinion 2. Opinion rules that a lawyer may not advance a client’s portion of settlement proceeds while a matter is pending or litigation is contemplated but may advance a client’s portion of settlement proceeds under other circumstance if the lawyer complies with Rule 1.8(a).