Rule 7 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct governs lawyer and law firm advertisements, or “communications concerning a lawyer’s services.” The Texas Supreme Court approved amendments to these rules on July 1, 2021. These amendments were the first major overhaul to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct in more than a decade. A major goal of these amendments was to modernize the rules for the digital age.
Violating these rules can result in disciplinary action for lawyers. As a result, lawyers should familiarize themselves with these rules in advertising their services to avoid disciplinary action against them or their law firms. Some examples of law firm advertising rules and how lawyers may violate them, leading to disciplinary proceedings.
Misleading or False Communications
Under Rule 7.01(a), lawyers may not make or sponsor false or misleading communications about the qualifications or services of a lawyer or law firm. All communications must be truthful and non-deceptive, and these rules only apply to those communications meant to result in financial gain to the lawyer. Communications are false or misleading if they:
- Contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or
- Omit a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading
Likewise, a statement is misleading if:
- There is a substantial likelihood that it will lead a reasonable person to formulate a specific conclusion about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services for which there is no reasonable factual foundation, or
- If the statement is substantially likely to create unjustified expectations about the results the lawyer can achieve
Additionally, lawyers also must avoid misleading truthful statements. For example, a truthful statement may be misleading if the lawyer presents it in a way that would make a reasonable person think that they must take further action when, in fact, no action is required.
Use of Trade Names
Rule 7.01(c) now permits lawyers and law firms to practice law under a trade name, so long as it is not false or misleading. So, for instance, you can call your law firm “Texas Family Law Attorneys,” but not “The Best Texas Family Law Attorneys.” You also cannot use the name of a lawyer who holds public office in the name of a law firm or communications on its behalf during any substantial period in which that lawyer is not regularly and actively practicing law with the law firm. Finally, a law firm can use the same name in more than one jurisdiction but must identify which lawyers in an office are licensed to practice in a jurisdiction and which are not.
Solicitation and Other Prohibited Communications
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Under Rule 7.03(d), a lawyer cannot mail, email, text, or post solicitation communications on social media to prospective clients if they are misleadingly designed to resemble legal pleadings or other legal documents. They also cannot send communications in these manners unless they are plainly marked “ADVERTISEMENT,” unless the target of the communication is:
- Another lawyer,
- A person who has a family, close personal, or prior business or professional relationship with the lawyer, or
- A person who the lawyer knows to be an experienced user of the type of legal services involved for business matters
Attorneys may pay for or give their clients or referral sources gifts, meals, or entertainment with a nominal value that amounts to normal social hospitality or an expression of appreciation, but nothing more.
Advertising Review Committee
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The Advertising Review Committee of the State Bar of Texas reviews lawyer and law firm advertisements to determine compliance with the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct under Rule 7.04. A lawyer can get pre-approval of an advertisement or solicitation communication by submitting the actual or proposed advertisement or solicitation communication to the Advertising Review Committee at least 30 days before its first dissemination under Rule 7.04(c)
Rule 7.04(a) generally requires lawyers to file a copy of all advertisement or solicitation communications, a completed application, and payment of a fee with the Advertising Review Committee. Although Rule 7.05 exempts some advertisements and solicitation communications, lawyers otherwise must meet these filing requirements no more than ten days after the date of dissemination of an advertisement for legal services or after the date of a solicitation communication sent by any means. The Advertising Review Committee can also request additional information from the lawyer regarding substantial allegations or representations made in those materials, and lawyers must respond promptly to those requests.
Failure to submit non-exempt materials to the Advertising Review Committee is a violation of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct and subjects lawyers to fines and review fees from the Advertising Review Committee.
Get Help Defending Your Law License Today
A disciplinary complaint to the State Bar of Texas can have significant adverse effects on your career that often will become a permanent part of your licensing record. Disciplinary action against you may even result in the loss of your license. However, you may avoid these damaging consequences with the right type of defense from the outset of your case. Contact the experienced law license defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP, so that we can begin investigating your case. You can call our office at (512) 476-5757 or visit us online to get more information about the services we can offer you.