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Rule 7.2 Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services: Specific Rules

(a) A lawyer may communicate information regarding the lawyer’s services through any media.

(b) A lawyer shall not compensate, give, or promise anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer's services except that a lawyer may

(1) pay the reasonable costs of advertisements or communications permitted by this Rule;

(2) pay the usual charges of an intermediary organization that complies with Rule 7.4, or a prepaid legal services plan that complies with 27 N.C. Admin. Code 1E.0301 et seq.;

(3) pay for a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.17; and

(4) give nominal gifts as an expression of appreciation that are neither intended nor reasonably expected to be a form of compensation for recommending a lawyer’s services.

(c) A lawyer shall not state that the lawyer specializes or is a specialist in a field of practice unless:

(1) the lawyer is certified as a specialist in the field of practice by:

(A) the North Carolina State Bar;

(B) an organization that is accredited by the North Carolina State Bar; or

(C) an organization that is accredited by the American Bar Association under procedures and criteria endorsed by the North Carolina State Bar; and

(2) the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication.

(d) Any communication made under this Rule must include the name and contact information of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content.


[1] This Rule permits public dissemination of information concerning a lawyer's or law firm’s name, address, email address, website, and telephone number; the kinds of services the lawyer will undertake; the basis on which the lawyer's fees are determined, including prices for specific services and payment and credit arrangements; a lawyer's foreign language ability; names of references and, with their consent, names of clients regularly represented; and other information that might invite the attention of those seeking legal assistance.

Paying Others to Recommend a Lawyer

[2] Except as permitted under paragraphs (b)(1)-(b)(4), lawyers are not permitted to pay others for recommending the lawyer's services. A communication contains a recommendation if it endorses or vouches for a lawyer's credentials, abilities, competence, character, or other professional qualities. Directory listings and group advertisements that list lawyers by practice area, without more, do not constitute impermissible “recommendations.”

[3] Paragraph (b)(1) allows a lawyer to pay for advertising and communications permitted by this Rule, including the costs of print directory listings, on-line directory listings, newspaper ads, television and radio airtime, domain-name registrations, sponsorship fees, Internet-based advertisements, and group advertising. A lawyer may compensate employees, agents, and vendors who are engaged to provide marketing or client-development services, such as publicists, public-relations personnel, business-development staff, television and radio station employees or spokespersons, and website designers.

[4] Paragraph (b)(4) permits a lawyer to give nominal gifts as an expression of appreciation to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services or referring a prospective client. The gift may not be more than a token item as might be given for holidays or other ordinary social hospitality. A gift is prohibited if offered or given in consideration of any promise, agreement, or understanding that such a gift would be forthcoming or that referrals would be made or encouraged in the future.

Paying Lead Generators

[5] A lawyer may pay others for generating client leads, such as Internet-based client leads, as long as the lead generator does not recommend the lawyer, any payment to the lead generator is consistent with Rules 1.5(e) (division of fees) and 5.4 (professional independence of the lawyer), and the lead generator’s communications are consistent with Rule 7.1 (communications concerning a lawyer’s services). To comply with Rule 7.1, a lawyer must not pay a lead generator that states, implies, or creates a reasonable impression that it is recommending the lawyer, is making the referral without payment from the lawyer, or has analyzed a person’s legal problems when determining which lawyer should receive the referral. See comment [2] (definition of “recommendation”). See also Rule 5.3 (duties of lawyers and law firms with respect to the conduct of nonlawyers); Rule 8.4(a) (duty to avoid violating the Rules through the acts of another).

Referrals from Intermediary Organizations and Prepaid Legal Service Plans

[6] A lawyer who accepts assignments or referrals from a prepaid legal service plan or referrals from an intermediary organization must act reasonably to assure that the activities of the plan or organization are compatible with the lawyer's professional obligations. See Rule 5.3, Rule 7.3, and Rule 7.4. A prepaid legal service plan assists people who seek to secure legal representation. Intermediary organizations, including lawyer referral services, are understood by the public to be consumer-oriented organizations that provide unbiased referrals to lawyers with appropriate experience in the subject matter of the representation and afford other client protections, such as complaint procedures or malpractice insurance requirements. Prepaid legal service plans and intermediary organizations may communicate with the public, but such communication must be in conformity with these Rules; notably, such communication must not be false or misleading.

Specialty Certification

[7] The use of the word “specialize” in any of its variant forms connotes to the public a particular expertise often subject to recognition by the state. Indeed, the North Carolina State Bar has instituted programs providing for official certification of specialists in certain areas of practice. Certification signifies that an objective entity has recognized an advanced degree of knowledge and experience in the specialty area greater than is suggested by general licensure to practice law. Certifying organizations are expected to apply standards of experience, knowledge, and proficiency to ensure that a lawyer's recognition as a specialist is meaningful and reliable. To avoid misrepresentation and deception, a lawyer may not communicate that the lawyer has been recognized or certified as a specialist in a particular field of law, except as provided by this Rule. The Rule requires that a representation of specialty may be made only if the certifying organization is the North Carolina State Bar, an organization accredited by the North Carolina State Bar, or an organization accredited by the American Bar Association under procedures approved by the North Carolina State Bar. To ensure that consumers can obtain access to useful information about an organization granting certification, the name of the certifying organization or agency must be included in any communication regarding the certification.

[8] A lawyer may, however, describe his or her practice without using the term “specialize” in any manner which is truthful and not misleading. This Rule specifically permits a lawyer to indicate areas of practice in communications about the lawyer's services. If a lawyer practices only in certain fields, or will not accept matters except in a specified field or fields, the lawyer is permitted to so indicate. The lawyer may, for instance, indicate a “concentration” or an “interest” or a “limitation.”

Contact Information

[9] This Rule requires that any communication about a lawyer or law firm’s services include the name of, and contact information for, the lawyer or law firm. Contact information includes a website address, a telephone number, an email address, or a physical office location.

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; September 28, 2017; April 21, 2021

Ethics Opinion Notes

CPR 14. A lawyer may not perform title examinations and legal work for a developer for free or for a substantially reduced fee as consideration for the developer's promise to recommend the lawyer to prospective purchasers and their lenders.

CPR 39. A lawyer may participate in a call-in radio program and answer legal questions.

CPR 40. It is unethical for lawyers to offer free legal services to employees of a savings and loan association to get title work.

CPR 58. An attorney may write and publish pamphlets of a legal nature and offer them for sale to the public.

CPR 116. An attorney may write legal articles for publication in business journals and be identified.

CPR 336. An attorney may advertise that he or she is also in the securities business and the insurance business.

CPR 359. Attorneys may share the cost of advertising by means of a private lawyer referral service under certain conditions.

RPC 10. Opinion rules that a lawyer may affiliate with a private referral service under certain conditions. (See Rule 7.2(e) of the Revised Rules for additional considerations.)

RPC 43. Opinion rules that an attorney who has been certified as a specialist by the Board of Legal Specialization may so indicate in an advertisement in any way that is not false, deceptive or misleading.

RPC 94. Opinion rules that a private lawyer referral service must have more than one participating lawyer and that all participants must share in the cost of operating the referral service.

RPC 115. Opinion rules that a lawyer may sponsor truthful legal information which is provided by telephone to members of the public.

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 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.

2004 Formal Ethics Opinion 1. Opinion rules that a lawyer may participate in an on-line service that is similar to both a lawyer referral service and a legal directory provided there is no fee sharing with the service and all communications about the lawyer and the service are truthful.

2004 Formal Ethics Opinion 2. Opinion rules that an attorney may not offer promotional merchandise in a targeted direct mail solicitation letter as an inducement to call the attorney's office.

2005 Formal Ethics Opinion 10. Opinion addresses ethical concerns raised by an internet-based or virtual law practice and the provision of unbundled legal services.

2006 Formal Ethics Opinion 7. Opinion rules that a lawyer may be a member of a for-profit networking organization provided the lawyer does not distribute business cards and is not required to make referrals to other members.

2007 Formal Ethics Opinion 4. Opinion provides guidance on miscellaneous issues relative to client seminars and solicitation, gifts to clients and others following referrals, distribution of business cards, and client endorsements.

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

2011 Formal Ethics Opinion 4. Opinion rules that a lawyer may not agree to procure title insurance exclusively from a particular title insurance agency on every transaction referred to the lawyer by a person associated with the agency.

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 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 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.

2013 Formal Ethics Opinion 10. Opinion rules that, with certain disclosures, a lawyer may participate in an online group legal advertising service that gives a participating lawyer exclusive rights to contacts arising from a particular territory.

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 7. Opinion rules that, subject to certain conditions, a lawyer may participate in an online service for soliciting client reviews that collects and posts positive reviews to increase the lawyer’s ranking on internet search engines.

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.

2022 Formal Ethics Opinion 3. Opinion rules that a lawyer may be included in an allied professional’s list of recommended lawyers provided that the professional does not disseminate the lawyer’s name and information in a manner that is prohibited by the Rules of Professional Conduct.

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