This week, the American Bar Association (ABA) adopted new changes to its model rules regarding attorney advertising and business solicitation.
According to Holland & Knight Partner Allison Martin Rhodes, the process for updating the ABA's rules in this notoriously confusing area of lawyer ethics started a few years ago, with help from the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL). APRL produced a report in 2015 on potential rule revisions based on survey results and other input from the many state regulators in charge of enforcing legal ethics rules.
Ms. Martin Rhodes, who is co-chair of Holland & Knight's Legal Profession team and APRL's newly-elected president and long-time board member, told The American Lawyer that APRL learned that ABA's advertising rules weren't being enforced in a standard way across different state bars, if they were being enforced at all. APRL's report also showed that, in a majority of cases, complaints to state bars alleging improper advertising were often coming from lawyers rather than consumers—which is problematic because the advertising and solicitation rules were designed to protect clients from misleading claims by lawyers, not to provide a forum for competing lawyers to dispute with one another.
"Client protection is our goal," said Ms. Martin Rhodes. "[These changes] will improve the regulator's ability to have a sensible enforcement protocol."
She also stated that it's likely the adoption by state bars will take some time, but that Oregon, Washington, and Virginia have already aligned their rules with the ABA's guidance. "It'll be a process in each state, [but] I think you're going to find widespread support."
READ: ABA Clarifies Rules on Lawyer Advertising (Subscription required)
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