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Proposed advertising rules tweaked

The Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics again has tweaked its proposed revisions of the rules that govern lawyer advertising.

The most substantive change is elimination of an earlier proposal to require lawyers to retain copies of their electronic advertising for a year. Ethics Counsel Jim McCauley said the committee received many comments that such information is so transient, especially in social media posts, that maintaining a paper trail of it is impractical.

The committee also received a number of comments objecting to the requirement that direct mail solicitations have a label on the envelope designating them as advertising material, but the proposed rules maintain the requirement. McCauley said objections about such advertising for traffic cases and foreclosures is probably the most common complaint the VSB receives from consumers.

The thrust of the proposals is “to simplify, shorten and make less technical the rules for lawyer advertising,” McCauley has said.

It eliminates the ban on in-person solicitation in personal injury cases and replaces it with a ban on any solicitation that “involves the use of harassment, coercion, duress, compulsion, intimidation, threats or unwarranted promises of benefits.”

The proposed rules also use the words “false” and “misleading” rather than “fraudulent” and “deceptive” because the committee wanted to focus on the accuracy of the information rather than any intent by a lawyer to deceive the public or defraud a consumer, McCauley said.

Comments on the proposed rules are due by Sept. 14, with possible action by the VSB Council at its October meeting.

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