• Print Page

Rules of Professional Conduct

Rule 7.1: Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services

 (a) A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication is false 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; or
      (2) Contains an assertion about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services that cannot be substantiated.
   (b) A lawyer shall not seek by in-person contact, employment (or employment of a partner or associate) by a nonlawyer who has not sought the lawyer’s advice regarding employment of a lawyer, if:
      (1) The solicitation involves use of a statement or claim that is false or misleading, within the meaning of paragraph (a);
      (2) The solicitation involves the use of coercion, duress or harassment; or
      (3) The potential client is apparently in a physical or mental condition which would make it unlikely that the potential client could exercise reasonable, considered judgment as to the selection of a lawyer.
 (c) A lawyer shall not pay money or give anything of material value to a person (other than the lawyer's partner or employee) in exchange 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 and reasonable fees or dues charged by a legal service plan or a lawyer referral service;
     (3) Pay for a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.17;and
     (4) Refer clients to another lawyer or nonlawyer professional pursuant to an agreement not otherwise prohibited under these Rules that provides for the other person to refer clients or customers to the lawyer, if:
          (A) The reciprocal agreement is not exclusive, and
          (B) The client is informed of the existence and nature of the agreement.
  (d) A lawyer shall not knowingly assist an organization that furnishes or pays for legal services to others to promote the use of the lawyer’s services or those of the lawyer’s partner or associate, or any other lawyer affiliated with the lawyer or the lawyer’s firm, as a private practitioner, if the promotional activity involves the use of coercion, duress, compulsion, intimidation, threats, or vexatious or harassing conduct.
   (e) No lawyer or any person acting on behalf of a lawyer shall solicit or invite or seek to solicit any person for purposes of representing that person for a fee paid by or on behalf of a client or under the Criminal Justice Act, D.C. Code Ann. §11-2601 (2001) et seq., in any present or future case in the District of Columbia Courthouse, on the sidewalks on the north, south, and west sides of the courthouse, or within 50 feet of the building on the east side.
   (f) Any lawyer or person acting on behalf of a lawyer who solicits or invites or seeks to solicit any person incarcerated at the District of Columbia Jail, the Correctional Treatment Facility or any District of Columbia juvenile detention facility for the purpose of representing that person for a fee paid by or on behalf of that person or under the Criminal Justice Act, D.C. Code Ann. §11-2601 (2001) et seq., in any then-pending criminal case in which that person is represented, must provide timely and adequate notice to the person’s then-current lawyer prior to accepting any fee from or on behalf of the incarcerated person.


   [1] This rule governs all communications about a lawyer’s services, including advertising. It is especially important that statements about a lawyer or the lawyer’s services be accurate, since many members of the public lack detailed knowledge of legal matters. Certain advertisements such as those that describe the amount of a damage award, the lawyer’s record in obtaining favorable verdicts, or those containing client endorsements, unless suitably qualified, have a capacity to mislead by creating an unjustified expectation that similar results can be obtained for others. Advertisements comparing the lawyer’s services with those of other lawyers are false or misleading if the claims made cannot be substantiated.


   [2] To assist the public in obtaining legal services, lawyers should be allowed to make known their services not only through reputation but also through organized information campaigns in the form of advertising. Advertising involves an active quest for clients, contrary to the tradition that a lawyer should not seek clientele. However, the public’s need to know about legal services can be fulfilled in part through advertising. This need is particularly acute in the case of persons of limited means who have not made extensive use of legal services. The interest in expanding public information about legal services ought to prevail over considerations of tradition.
   [3] This rule permits public dissemination of information concerning a lawyer’s name or firm name, address, and telephone number; the kinds of services the lawyer will undertake; the basis on which the lawyer’s fees are determined, including prices for specific services and payment and credit arrangements; a lawyer’s foreign language ability; names of references and, with their consent, names of clients regularly represented; and other information that might invite the attention of those seeking legal assistance.
   [4] Questions of effectiveness and taste in advertising are matters of speculation and subjective judgment. Some jurisdictions have rules regulating the type and content of advertising by lawyers that go beyond prohibitions against false or misleading statements. Such regulations create unneeded barriers to the flow of information about lawyers’ services to persons needing such services, and so this rule subjects advertising by lawyers only to the requirement that it not be false or misleading.
   [5] There is no significant distinction between disseminating information and soliciting clients through mass media or through individual personal contact. In-person solicitation (which would include telephone contact but not electronic mail) can, however, create problems because of the particular circumstances in which the solicitation takes place. This rule prohibits in-person solicitation in circumstances or through means that are not conducive to intelligent, rational decisions. Such circumstances and means could be the harassment of early morning or late night telephone calls to a prospective client to solicit legal work, or repeated calls at any time of day, and solicitation of an accident victim or the victim’s family shortly after the accident or while the victim is still in medical distress. A lawyer is no longer permitted to conduct in-person solicitation through the use of a paid intermediary, i.e., a person who is neither the lawyer’s partner (as defined in Rule 1.0(i)) nor employee (see Rule 5.3) and who is compensated for such services. This prohibition represents a change in Rule 7.1(b), which had previously authorized payments to intermediaries for recommending a lawyer. Experience under the former provision showed it to be unnecessary and subject to abuse. See Rules 5.3, 8.4(a), and 8.4(c) regarding a lawyer’s responsibility for abusive or deceptive solicitation of a client by the lawyer’s employee.
  [6] Rule 7.1(c) does not address fee splitting between two or more firms representing the same client in the same project. Compare Rule 1.5(e). Lawyers must also be aware of their obligation to maintain their professional independence under Rule 5.4.  
  [7] A lawyer may agree to refer clients to another lawyer or a nonlawyer professional, in return for the undertaking of that person to refer clients or customers to the lawyer. Such reciprocal referral arrangements must not interfere with the lawyer's professional judgment as to making referrals or as to providing substantive legal services. See Rules 2.1 and 5.4(c). Except as provided in Rule 1.5(e), a lawyer who receives referrals from a lawyer or nonlawyer professional must not pay money or give anything of material value solely for the referral, but the lawyer does not violate paragraph (c) of this Rule by agreeing to refer clients to the other lawyer or nonlawyer professional, so long as the reciprocal referral agreement is not exclusive and the client is informed of the referral agreement. Conflicts of interest created by such arrangements are governed by Rule 1.7. Reciprocal referral agreements should not be of indefinite duration and should be reviewed periodically to determine whether they comply with these Rules. This Rule does not restrict referrals or divisions of revenues or net income among lawyers within firms comprised of multiple entities.

Payments for Advertising
   [8] A lawyer is allowed to pay for advertising or marketing permitted by this rule. Likewise, a lawyer may participate in lawyer referral programs and pay the usual fees charged by such programs.

Solicitations in the Vicinity of the District of Columbia Courthouse
   [9] Paragraph (e) is designed to prohibit unseemly solicitations of prospective clients in and around the District of Columbia Courthouse. The words “for a fee paid by or on behalf of a client or under the Criminal Justice Act” have been added to paragraph (e) as it was originally promulgated by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in 1982. The purpose of the addition is to permit solicitation in the District of Columbia Courthouse for the purposes of pro bono representation. For the purposes of this rule, pro bono representation, whether by individual lawyers or nonprofit organizations, is representation undertaken primarily for purposes other than a fee. That representation includes providing services free of charge for individuals who may be in need of legal assistance and may lack the financial means and sophistication necessary to have alternative sources of aid. Cases where fees are awarded under the Criminal Justice Act do not constitute pro bono representation for the purposes of this rule. However, the possibility that fees may be awarded under the Equal Access to Justice Act and Civil Rights Attorneys’ Fees Awards Act of 1976, as amended, or other statutory attorney fee statutes, does not prevent representation from constituting pro bono representation.

Solicitations of Inmates
   [10] Paragraph (f) is designed to address the vulnerability of incarcerated persons to lawyers seeking fee-paying representations. It applies only to situations where the incarcerated person has not initiated contact with the lawyer. In such situations, the lawyer may have contact with the individual but may not accept a fee unless and until timely notice is provided to current counsel for such incarcerated person.