Bar Rules

RULE 7.1 COMMUNICATIONS CONCERNING A LAWYER'S SERVICES

Ethics & Discipline / Current Rules / Part IV (After January 1 / 2001) - Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct (also includes Disciplinary Proceedings and Advisory Opinion rules) / CHAPTER 1 GEORGIA RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT AND ENFORCEMENT THEREOF

  1. A lawyer may advertise through all forms of public media and through written communication not involving personal contact so long as the communication is not false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading. By way of illustration, but not limitation, a communication is false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading if it:
    1. contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading;
    2. is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct or other law;
    3. compares the lawyer's services with other lawyers' services unless the comparison can be factually substantiated;
    4. fails to include the name of at least one lawyer responsible for its content; or
    5. contains any information regarding contingent fees, and fails to conspicuously present the following disclaimer:

      "Contingent attorneys' fees refers only to those fees charged by attorneys for their legal services. Such fees are not permitted in all types of cases. Court costs and other additional expenses of legal action usually must be paid by the client."
    6. contains the language 'no fee unless you win or collect' or any similar phrase and fails to conspicuously present the following disclaimer:

      "No fee unless you win or collect" [or insert the similar language used in the communication] refers only to fees charged by the attorney. Court costs and other additional expenses of legal action usually must be paid by the client. Contingent fees are not permitted in all types of cases.
  2. A public communication for which a lawyer has given value must be identified as such unless it is apparent from the context that it is such a communication.
  3. A lawyer retains ultimate responsibility to insure that all communications concerning the lawyer or the lawyer's services comply with the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this Rule is disbarment.

Comment

[1] This rule governs the content of all communications about a lawyer's services, including the various types of advertising permitted by Rules 7.3 through 7.5. Whatever means are used to make known a lawyer's services, statements about them should be truthful.

[2] The prohibition in sub-paragraph (a)(2) of this Rule 7.1: Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services of statements that may create "unjustified expectations" would ordinarily preclude advertisements about results obtained on behalf of a client, such as the amount of a damage award or the lawyer's record in obtaining favorable verdicts, and advertisements containing client endorsements. Such information may create the unjustified expectation that similar results can be obtained for others without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances.

Affirmative Disclosure

[3] In general, the intrusion on the First Amendment right of commercial speech resulting from rationally-based affirmative disclosure requirements is minimal, and is therefore a preferable form of regulation to absolute bans or other similar restrictions. For example, there is no significant interest in failing to include the name of at least one accountable attorney in all communications promoting the services of a lawyer or law firm as required by sub-paragraph (a)(5) of Rule 7.1: Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services. Nor is there any substantial burden imposed as a result of the affirmative disclaimer requirement of sub-paragraph (a)(6) upon a lawyer who wishes to make a claim in the nature of "no fee unless you win." Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has specifically recognized that affirmative disclosure of a client's liability for costs and expenses of litigation may be required to prevent consumer confusion over the technical distinction between the meaning and effect of the use of such terms as "fees" and "costs" in an advertisement.

[4] Certain promotional communications of a lawyer may, as a result of content or circumstance, tend to mislead a consumer to mistakenly believe that the communication is something other than a form of promotional communication for which the lawyer has paid. Examples of such a communication might include advertisements for seminars on legal topics directed to the lay public when such seminars are sponsored by the lawyer, or a newsletter or newspaper column which appears to inform or to educate about the law. Paragraph (b) of this Rule 7.1: Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services would require affirmative disclosure that a lawyer has given value in order to generate these types of public communications if such is in fact the case.

Accountability

[5] Paragraph (c) makes explicit an advertising attorney's ultimate responsibility for all the lawyer's promotional communications and would suggest that review by the lawyer prior to dissemination is advisable if any doubts exist concerning conformity of the end product with these Rules. Although prior review by disciplinary authorities is not required by these Rules, lawyers are certainly encouraged to contact disciplinary authorities prior to authorizing a promotional communication if there are any doubts concerning either an interpretation of these Rules or their application to the communication.



GO TO RULE 6.5. NONPROFIT & COURT-ANNEXED LIMITED LEGAL SERVICES PROGRAMS
GO TO RULE 7.2 ADVERTISING
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