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ABA Revises Model Rules on Attorney Advertising

Attorney advertising is regulated by your state’s bar association and its Rules of Professional Conduct. Most of the states in the U.S. base their rules on the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Model Rules.

So when the ABA amends nearly all of its rules on how lawyers can market themselves, the trickle down implications can be significant, and can change how your law firm’s website and legal blog need to work.

American Bar Association alters rules of attorney advertising

ABA Amends Model Rule 7

At the ABA Annual Meeting in August, a new Rule 7 was proposed that was aimed to bring attorney advertising regulations “into the 21st century,” according to Dennis Rendleman, the ABA’s lead senior ethics counsel.

Based on suggestions from reports over the past couple of years, the proposed Rule 7 presented a “significant philosophical shift.” Nevertheless, the proposed changes led to little fanfare: The open comments period brought little criticism, no one rose to oppose the changes during the Annual Meeting, and the amendment passed easily.

Changes Alter Nearly All Sections of Advertising Rules

Only Model Rule 7.6, which deals with political contributions, survived the amendments intact. Rules 7.1 through 7.5 were revised substantially, while a couple sections—Rules 7.4 and 7.5—were deleted, entirely, or subsumed by other sections.

New Rules Will Impact Legal Blogging

Needless to say, the ABA’s amendments to Rule 7 will have a significant impact on attorney marketing, in the future. For now, though, nothing will change because the Model Rules are just that—model rules. States have adopted them closely, but each one will have to make the active choice to change its own rules to comport with the ABA’s new Rule 7.

If they do, though, the new rules on attorney marketing will have a considerable impact on your law firm’s website, as well as on the best practices for legal blogging. After all, your legal blog is commercial speech, so the regulations your state’s bar sets for advertising will apply to your blog, as well.

An important aspect of the revised Model Rules is Rule 7.4, which deals with whether a lawyer can claim a specialty in a certain field of law. The new amendments to Rule 7 eliminate 7.4, enmeshing it within a highly revised Rule 7.2.

We’ll delve into the nitty-gritty details of the ABA’s revision, in next week’s blog post, and then the revision’s implications on whether you can claim to be a specialist in a field of law, two weeks from now.