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99 Formal Ethics Opinion 7

July 23, 1999

Advertising Jury Verdicts

 

Opinion rules that a law firm may not state in a direct mail letter that lawyers in the firm have obtained jury verdicts of specified amounts because the statement may create unjustified expectations about the results the lawyers can achieve.

 

Inquiry:

 

ABC Law Firm wants to include the following paragraph in its targeted direct letters to traffic accident victims:

 

If you need a lawyer to represent you in connection with your recent accident, look no further. Our firm has obtained jury verdicts and settlements for individual clients in excess of $1,000,000.00. Although there is no guarantee of any recovery in your case, we will provide you with aggressive and comprehensive legal services to protect your rights and interests and maximize your chances of recovery.

 

May the statement regarding jury verdicts be included in the direct mail letters?

 

Opinion:

 

No. Rule 7.1 of the Revised Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits a lawyer from making a false or misleading communication about the lawyer's services. Paragraph (b) of the rule defines a false or misleading communication, in part, as a communication that "is likely to create an unjustified expectation about the results the lawyer can achieve…." Comment [1] to the rule specifies that the prohibition in paragraph (b) "would ordinarily preclude advertisements about the results obtained on behalf of a client, such as the amount of a damage award or the lawyer's record in obtaining favorable verdicts…." A general representation about past results without additional information that puts the past results in context is misleading. In the direct mail letter in this inquiry, the statement that "there is no guarantee of any recovery in your case" is not sufficient to mitigate the unjustified expectations created by the advertisement of jury verdicts proscribed by the comment to Rule 7.1.

 

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