Mich. R. Prof'l. Cond. 7.1 - 7.5

As amended through August 10, 2022
Rule 7.1 - 7.5 - Information About Legal Services

Rule: 7.1 Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services

A lawyer may, on the lawyer's own behalf, on behalf of a partner or associate, or on behalf of any other lawyer affiliated with the lawyer or the lawyer's law firm, use or participate in the use of any form of public communication that is not false, fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive. A communication shall not:

(a) contain a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omit a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading;
(b) be likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or state or imply that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law; or
(c) compare the lawyer's services with other lawyers' services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated.

Except as otherwise provided in this rule, a lawyer who is a retired or former justice, judge, referee, or magistrate may use the title ("justice," "judge," "referee," or "magistrate,") only when the title is preceded by the word "retired" or "former." A justice, judge, referee, or magistrate who is removed from office or terminated on grounds of misconduct is prohibited from using the title.

Comment: This rule governs all communications about a lawyer's services, including advertising permitted by Rule 7.2. Whatever means are used to make known a lawyer's services, statements about them should be truthful. The prohibition in paragraph (b) of statements that may create "an unjustified expectation" would ordinarily preclude advertisements about results obtained on behalf of a client, such as the amount of a damage award or the lawyer's record in obtaining favorable verdicts, and would ordinarily preclude advertisements containing client endorsements. Such information may create the unjustified expectation that similar results can be obtained for others without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances.

Rule: 7.2 Advertising

(a) Subject to the provisions of these rules, a lawyer may advertise.
(b) A copy or recording of an advertisement or communication shall be kept for two years after its last dissemination along with a record of when and where it was used.
(c) A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer's services, except that a lawyer may:
(i) pay the reasonable cost of advertising or communication permitted by this rule;
(ii) participate in, and pay the usual charges of, a not-for-profit lawyer referral service or other legal service organization that satisfies the requirements of Rule 6.3(b); and
(iii) pay for a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.17.
(d) For purposes of media advertising, services of a lawyer or law firm that are advertised under the heading of a phone number, web address, icon, or trade name shall identify the name and contact information of at least one lawyer responsible for the content of the advertisement. The identification shall appear on or in the advertisement itself; or, if that is not practical due to space limitations, the identification shall be prominently displayed on the home page of the law firm's website and any other website used by the law firm for advertising purposes.

Comment: 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 moderate 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. Nevertheless, advertising by lawyers entails the risk of practices that are misleading or overreaching.

Neither this rule nor Rule 7.3 prohibits communications authorized by law, such as notice to members of a class in a class action.

RECORD OF ADVERTISING

Paragraph (b) requires that a record of the content and use of advertising be kept in order to facilitate enforcement of these rules.

PAYING OTHERS TO RECOMMEND A LAWYER

A lawyer is allowed to pay for advertising permitted by these rules and for the purchase of a law practice in accordance with the provisions of MRPC 1.17, but otherwise is not permitted to pay another person for channeling professional work. But see MRPC 1.5(e). This restriction does not prevent an organization or person other than the lawyer from advertising or recommending the lawyer's services. Thus, a legal aid agency or prepaid legal services plan may pay to advertise legal services provided under its auspices. Likewise, a lawyer may participate in not-for-profit lawyer referral programs and pay the usual fees charged by such programs. Paragraph (c) does not prohibit paying regular compensation to an assistant, such as a secretary, to prepare communications permitted by these rules.

(d) Services of a lawyer or law firm that are advertised under the heading of a phone number, web address, or trade name shall identify the name, office address, and business telephone number of at least one lawyer responsible for the content of the advertisement.

Rule: 7.3 Solicitation

(a) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment from a person with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship when a significant motive for the lawyer's doing so is the lawyer's pecuniary gain. The term "solicit" includes contact in person, by telephone or telegraph, by letter or other writing, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient, but does not include letters addressed or advertising circulars distributed generally to persons not known to need legal services of the kind provided by the lawyer in a particular matter, but who are so situated that they might in general find such services useful, nor does the term "solicit" include "sending truthful and nondeceptive letters to potential clients known to face particular legal problems" as elucidated in Shapero v Kentucky Bar Ass'n,486 US 466, 468; 108 S Ct 1916; 100 L Ed 2d 475 (1988).
(b) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment from a person by written or recorded communication or by in-person or telephone contact even when not otherwise prohibited by paragraph (a), if:
(1) the person has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer; or
(2) the solicitation involves coercion, duress or harassment.

Comment: There is a potential for abuse inherent in direct contact by a lawyer with a person known to need legal services. These forms of contact subject a person to the private importuning of the trained advocate in a direct interpersonal encounter. A person, who may already feel overwhelmed by the circumstances giving rise to the need for legal services, may find it difficult to evaluate fully all available alternatives with reasoned judgment and appropriate self-interest in the face of a lawyer's presence and insistence upon being retained immediately. The situation is fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, and overreaching.

However, the United States Supreme Court has modified the traditional ban on written solicitation. Shapero v Kentucky Bar Ass'n,486 US 466; 108 S Ct 1916; 100 L Ed 2d 475 (1988). Paragraph (a) of this rule is therefore modified to the extent required by the Shapero decision.

The potential for abuse inherent in direct solicitation justifies its partial prohibition, particularly since lawyer advertising and the communication permitted under these rules are alternative means of communicating necessary information to those who may be in need of legal services.

Advertising and permissible communication make it possible for a person to be informed about the need for legal services, and about the qualifications of available lawyers and law firms, without subjecting a person to impermissible persuasion that may overwhelm a person' judgment.

The use of general advertising and communications permitted under Shapero rather than impermissible direct contact, will help to assure that the information flows cleanly as well as freely. Advertising is out in public view, thus subject to scrutiny by those who know the lawyer. The contents of advertisements and communications permitted under Rule 7.2 are permanently recorded so that they cannot be disputed and may be shared with others who know the lawyer. This potential for informal review is itself likely to help guard against statements and claims that might constitute false or misleading communications, in violation of Rule 7.1. The contents of some impermissible direct conversations can be disputed and are not subject to third-party scrutiny. Consequently they are much more likely to approach (and occasionally cross) the dividing line between accurate representations and those that are false and misleading.

There is far less likelihood that a lawyer would engage in abusive practices against an individual with whom the lawyer has a prior family or professional relationship or where the lawyer is motivated by considerations other than the lawyer's pecuniary gain. Consequently, the general prohibition in Rule 7.3(a) is not applicable in those situations.

This rule is not intended to prohibit a lawyer from contacting representatives of organizations or groups that may be interested in establishing a group or prepaid legal plan for its members, insureds, beneficiaries, or other third parties for the purpose of informing such entities of the availability of, and detail concerning, the plan or arrangement that the lawyer or the lawyer's firm is willing to offer. This form of communication is not directed to a specific person known to need legal services related to a particular matter. Rather, it is usually addressed to an individual acting in a fiduciary capacity seeking a supplier of legal services for others who may, if they choose, become clients of the lawyer. Under these circumstances, the activity which the lawyer undertakes in communicating with such representatives and the type of information transmitted to the individual are functionally similar to and serve the same purpose as advertising permitted under these rules.

Rule: 7.4 Communication of Fields of Practice

A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law.

Comment: This rule permits a lawyer to indicate areas of practice in communications about the lawyer's services, for example, in a telephone directory or other advertising. If a lawyer practices only in certain fields, or will not accept matters except in such fields, the lawyer is permitted to indicate that fact.

Rule: 7.5 Firm Names and Letterheads

(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates Rule 7.1. A trade name may be used by a lawyer in private practice if it does not imply a connection with a government agency or with a public or charitable legal services organization and it is not otherwise in violation of Rule 7.1.
(b) A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name in each jurisdiction, but identification of the lawyers in an office of the firm shall indicate the jurisdictional limitations on those not licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the office is located.
(c) The name of a lawyer holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.
(d) Lawyers may state or imply that they practice in a partnership or other organization only when that is the fact.

Mich. R. Prof'l. Cond. 7.1 - 7.5

Amended May 23, 2018, effective 9/1/2018; amended May 30, 2018, effective 9/1/2018; amended September 20, 2018, effective 1/1/2019; amended March 27, 2019, effective 5/1/2019.

Comment: A firm may be designated by the names of all or some of its members, by the names of deceased members where there has been a continuing succession in the firm's identity or by a trade name such as the "ABC Legal Clinic." Although the United States Supreme Court has held that legislation may prohibit the use of trade names in professional practice, use of such names in law practice is acceptable so long as it is not misleading. If a private firm uses a trade name that includes a geographical name such as "Springfield Legal Clinic," an express disclaimer that it is a public legal aid agency may be required to avoid a misleading implication. It may be observed that any firm name including the name of a deceased partner is, strictly speaking, a trade name. The use of such names to designate law firms has proven a useful means of identification. However, it is misleading to use the name of a lawyer not associated with the firm or with a predecessor of the firm.

With regard to paragraph (d), lawyers sharing office facilities, but who are not in fact partners, may not denominate themselves as, for example, "Smith and Jones," for that title suggests partnership in the practice of law.