June 9, 2001
ABA ETHICS 2000 COMMISSION
FINAL REPORT - SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
Margaret Colgate Love
Information About Legal Services: The Commission considered a number of recommendations for relaxing the rules governing the provision of information about a lawyer's services, and decided against most of them. It will, however, update the rules to take account of such emerging trends as targeted solicitations and Internet advertising. It proposes to reduce the text of Rule 7.1 ("Communications Concerning A Lawyer's Services") to a simple prohibition against false or misleading communications (defined as those containing material misrepresentations or omissions), and to provide additional guidance in commentary about what sorts of statements may be deemed misleading.
In addition, after initially rejecting proposals to amend Rule 7.2 ("Advertising") to allow payments to for-profit lawyer referral services, the Commission decided to allow such payments under limited circumstances, where the particular referral service has been "approved by an appropriate regulatory authority." It also developed new commentary dealing with the obligations of a lawyer who accepts assignments or referrals from a legal service plan, or referrals from a lawyer referral service. These changes strike a balance between the need to protect consumers of legal services on the one hand, and ABA policy favoring expanded consumer access to legal services on the other.
With one exception, the Commission declined to relax the restrictions in Rule 7.3 ("Direct Contact With Prospective Clients") on in-person or live telephonic or electronic solicitations, while distinguishing real-time conversations in internet "chat rooms." Specifically, it rejected a proposal to allow in-person solicitations to businesses and non-profit or government organizations, but agreed to allow solicitations to lawyers (including in-house counsel) and to family members and close personal friends. It also declined to adopt a specific prohibition on contacts with persons in a vulnerable physical, emotional or mental state. Finally, it tightened up the requirements in Rule 7.4 (retitled "Communication of Fields of Practice and Specialization") respecting the terms on which a lawyer may advertise herself as a certified specialist.