Lawyers representing clients in personal injury claims face numerous ethical pitfalls every time they look for, evaluate, accept and handle a new case. Nonetheless, honesty, common sense and a solid understanding of the Rules of Professional Conduct should protect most of us from making mistakes.
Your practice type typically dictates how you find your cases. In my practice, almost all of my cases come from referrals from other lawyers, prior clients and current clients. For other firms, advertising is responsible for the bulk of new business. Common forms of advertising include television, firm websites, social media, radio, billboards and print media. Advertising often provides great exposure to potential clients. The Rules of Professional Conduct, of course, permit advertising via Rule 7.2. So, if the case does not find you through a referral or word-of-mouth, how can you actively look for new cases under the rules?
Simply stated, don’t mislead. Throughout the various subsections of 7.2, language exists mandating disclosure of various facts affecting the veracity of any advertisement. For instance, if you advertise on TV using a paid actor portraying a client, you need to disclose that fact. Similarly, if you concentrate in a specific area of the law, for example, motor vehicle crashworthiness cases, and you advertise that “concentration” on your firm’s website, the rules certainly permit you to do so, provided you are truly competent to handle those cases “from intake to trial.” If, however, your firm handles those cases only up to the point of formal litigation, you must disclose the existence of any referral or co-counsel relationship. To avoid problems when advertising, simple honesty and full disclosure in the ad should satisfy Rule 7.2.
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