(a) Subject to the requirements of Rules 7.1 and 7.3, a lawyer may advertise services through written, recorded, or electronic communications, including public media. In the determination of whether an advertisement violates this Rule, the advertisement shall be considered in its entirety, including any qualifying statements or disclaimers contained therein. Notwithstanding the requirements of Rule 7.1, an advertisement violates this Rule if it:
- (1) contains an endorsement by a celebrity or public figure who is not a client of the firm without disclosure (i) of the fact that the speaker is not a client of the lawyer or the firm, and (ii) whether the speaker is being paid for the appearance or endorsement; or
- (2) contains a portrayal of a client by a non-client without disclosure that the depiction is a dramatization; or
- (3)advertises specific or cumulative case results, without a disclaimer that (i) puts the case results in a context that is not misleading; (ii) states that case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case; and (iii) further states that case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case undertaken by the lawyer. The disclaimer shall precede the communication of the case results. When the communication is in writing, the disclaimer shall be in bold type face and uppercase letters in a font size that is at least as large as the largest text used to advertise the specific or cumulative case results and in the same color and against the same colored background as the text used to advertise the specific or cumulative case results.
- (b) A recording of the actual electronic media advertisement shall be approved by the lawyer prior to its broadcast and retained by the lawyer for a period of one year following the last broadcast date, along with a record of when and where it was used, which recording and date shall be provided to the Standing Committee on Legal Ethics upon its request.
(c) A lawyer shall not give 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 a not-for-profit lawyer referral service or legal service organization; and
- (3) pay for a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.17.
(d) A written or e-mail communication that bears the lawyer's or firm's name and the purpose of which in whole or in part is an initial contact to promote employment for a fee, sent to a prospective non-lawyer client who is not:
- (1) a close friend, relative, current client, former client; or
- (2) one who has initiated contact with the attorney; or
- (3) one who is similarly situated with a current client of the attorney with respect to a specific matter being handled by the attorney, to the extent that the prospective client's rights may be reasonably expected to be materially affected by the outcome of the matter;
shall be identified by conspicuous display of the statement in upper case letters “ADVERTISING MATERIAL.”
The required statement shall be displayed in the lower left hand corner of the address portion of the communication in type size at least equal to the largest type used on the communication and also on the front of the first page of the communication in type size at least equal to the largest type used on the page. Further, in the case of e-mail advertising or solicitation, the header shall also display the statement, in uppercase letters, “ADVERTISING MATERIAL.”
Further, any such written communication shall not be sent by registered mail or other forms of restricted delivery, nor shall such written communication be sent to any person who has made known to the lawyer a desire not to receive communications from the lawyer. Lawyers who advertise or solicit by e-mail shall include instructions of how the recipient of such communications may notify the sender that they wish not to receive such communications in the future.
This paragraph does not apply to any communication which is directed to be sent by a court or tribunal, or otherwise required by law.
- (e) Advertising made pursuant to this Rule shall include the full name and office address of an attorney licensed to practice in Virginia who is responsible for its content or, in the alternative, a law firm may file with the Virginia State Bar a current written statement identifying the responsible attorney for the law firm’s advertising and its office address, and the firm shall promptly notify the Virginia State Bar in writing of any change in status.
 The proper motivation for commercial publicity by lawyers lies in the need to inform the public of the availability of competent, independent legal counsel. The public benefit derived from advertising depends upon the usefulness of the information provided to the community or to the segment of the community to which it is directed. To achieve these objectives, advertising must not be false, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive. Advertising marked by excesses of content, volume, scope or frequency, or which unduly emphasizes unrepresentative biographical information, does not provide that public benefit.
[1a] Advertisements and personal communications which are not misleading or deceptive will make it apparent that the necessity and advisability of legal action depends on variant factors that must be evaluated individually. Due to fee information that may frequently be incomplete and misleading to a layperson, a lawyer should exercise great care that fee information is complete and accurate. Due to the individuality of each legal problem, statements regarding average, minimum or estimated fees may be deceiving, as will commercial publicity conveying information as to results previously achieved, general or average solutions, or expected outcomes. It would be misleading to advertise a set fee for a specific type of case without adhering to the stated fee in charging clients. Advertisements or other claims that convey an impression that the ingenuity of the lawyer rather than the justice of the claim is determinative are similarly likely to be deceptive. An advertisement that truthfully reports a lawyer’s achievement on behalf of clients or former clients may be misleading nonetheless, 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’ case. 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 a prospective client. Whether a particular disclaimer is sufficient will depend on its content and the manner in which it is displayed in the context of the advertisement. Only factual assertions, and not opinions, should be made in such communications. Commercial publicity and personal communications addressed to undertaking any legal action should always indicate the provisions of such undertaking and should disclose the impossibility of assuring any particular result. Not only must communication be truthful but its meaning must be capable of being understood by the reasonably prudent layperson.
[1b] The regulation of advertising and personal communications by lawyers is rooted in the public interest. Advertising through which a lawyer seeks business by use of extravagant, self laudatory statements, or appeals to fears and emotions could mislead laypersons. Furthermore, public and personal communications that produce unrealistic expectations in particular cases may bring about distrust of the law and lawyers. Thus, public confidence in our legal system would be impaired by such statements regarding professional services. The attorney client relationship, being personal and unique, should not be established as the result of pressures and deceptions. All lawyers should remain vigilant to prevent deceptive publicity that would mislead laypersons, cause distrust of the law and lawyers, and undermine public confidence in the legal system. Only unambiguous information relevant to a layperson's decision regarding legal rights or selection of counsel is appropriate in communications.
 Advertisements and public communications should be formulated to convey information that is useful to a layperson in making an appropriate selection. Self laudation should be avoided. Information that may be helpful in some situations would include: (1) office information, such as: name, including name of law firm, and names of professional associates; addresses; telephone numbers; credit card acceptability; languages spoken and written; and office hours; (2) biographical information; (3) description of the practice but only by using designations and definitions authorized by Rule 7.4; and (4) fee information.
Virginia Code Comparison
Rule 7.2 is similar to DR 2-101 of the Virginia Code except for those provisions included in Rule 7.1. In addition, Rule 7.2 (a)(3) includes the specific prohibition against advertising specific and cumulative case results. Paragraph (d) also now includes the provisions that all written or e-mail communication must display the words “advertising materials.”
Paragraph(e), which is contained in ABA Model Rule 7.2, is intended to provide accountability if any issue regarding a particular communication should arise.
The Committee decided to split the originally adopted Rule 7.1 into two rules and create Rule 7.2.
Rule 7.1 applies to all communications from a lawyer including advertising that is covered under Rule 7.2. Rule 7.2 was specifically segregated due to the unique issues created by the inclusion of paragraph (e) and the fact that the committee determined these specifics were meant to apply to advertising but not generically to all communications. The committee expanded paragraph (c) to include all written and e-mail communication.
Paragraph (a)(3) is a new provision that specifically prohibits “advertising specific or cumulative case results without an appropriate disclaimer,” which has no direct counterpart in Virginia Code, but incorporates the longstanding opinion of the committee, as previously outlined in its written opinions.
Effective date — This Rule and commentary thereto became effective November 1, 2002.
The amendments effective June 30, 2005, in paragraph (e), added the language beginning with “or in alternative…” and ending with “change in status.”
The amendments effective January 22, 2010, in paragraph (b), changed the designation from the Standing Committee on "Lawyer Advertising" to "Legal Ethics."
Updated: November 29, 2012