Lawyers can be intimidating to laypeople.
Lawyers are bound by ethical guidelines when it comes to marketing their legal services. Rule 7.3 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct regulates the solicitation of clients through advertising and marketing. Violating this rule can result in serious disciplinary consequences for the lawyer and their law firm.
Here are some of the ethics mistakes lawyers make that violate Rule 7.3.
- Contacting Prospective Clients Without Prior Relationship
- Example: A lawyer calls or texts a person who has been involved in a car accident to offer legal services without having a prior personal or professional relationship with the person.
- Using Coercive Language or Tactics to Solicit Clients.
- Example: A lawyer threatens a prospective client with legal action if they do not hire the lawyer.
- Offering Gifts or Financial Inducements:
- Example: A lawyer offers a gift card to a prospective client in exchange for hiring them.
- Using False or Misleading Information
- Example: A lawyer might claim to have won a case they did not actually win.
- Making Guarantees or Promises About the Outcome of a Case.
- Example: A lawyer commits to a prospective client that they will win their case.
- Soliciting Clients Where They May Be Vulnerable.
- Example: A lawyer might approach a person who has just been sentenced to prison to offer legal services.
- Sending Unsolicited Communications:
- Example: A lawyer might send an email or direct mailer to a person they found online who has been involved in a car accident.
- Failing to Include Required Information:
- Example: A lawyer’s advertisement fails to include their name or contact information.
- Failing to Label Marketing Material as Advertising:
- Example: A lawyer advertises their firm on Facebook without including the appropriate disclaimer.
- Seeks to Get Hired for “Pecuniary Gain”:
- Example: A lawyer seeks to get hired to earn more money. Rule 7.3(a) states that “A lawyer shall not… solicit professional employment when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain.”
I believe that this is the silliest ethics rule. We’re all in business to make money; there’s nothing wrong with that. Why should lawyers create this fiction that we’re always simply fighting for truth, justice, and the American way?
In conclusion, lawyers must be careful to comply with Rule 7.3 when advertising and marketing their legal services. Violating this rule can result in serious consequences for both the lawyer and their law firm. By carefully understanding and avoiding common mistakes, lawyers can ensure that their advertising and marketing efforts are ethical, effective, and in compliance with the law.
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