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The Florida Bar
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FLORIDA BAR STANDING COMMITTEE ON ADVERTISING

OPINION A-99-1
June 2, 2000

[Approved by the Board of Governors on June 2, 2000.]


An attorney who sends informational newsletters to prospective clients must file the first issue of the newsletter for review by the Committee. Subsequent newsletters must be filed for review only if they include additional information about the law firm and the new firm information is not presumptively permissible under the rules.

Note: Rule 4-7.2(c)(10) was amended by the Supreme Court in In re: Amendments to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar - Subchapter 4-7, Lawyer Advertising Rules,108 So.3d 609, (Fla. Jan. 31, 2013). The rule contains additional exemptions and was renumbered as 4-7.16.

RPC: 4-7.7(a), 4-7.4(b), 4-7.2(c)(10)

An attorney has requested an opinion regarding application of the attorney advertising rules to a newsletter. The inquirer proposes to send an informational newsletter on a quarterly basis to banks and other lenders who are not current or former clients of the law firm. The newsletter contains articles regarding current case law and legislation on creditor issues in bankruptcy. The newsletter also contains promotional information about the lawyer, including board certification, date of admission to The Florida Bar, admission to courts, address, telephone number, information about the firm's building, and an invitation to call the firm regarding fee schedules and client references. The inquirer intends to use the same promotional material about the law firm in each issue of the newsletter, but will change the substantive articles regarding legislation and case law. The inquirer would like to know if each subsequent newsletter is required to be filed for review, together with the filing fee.

The Committee's opinion is that a copy of the first newsletter must be filed with the Committee for review, along with a filing fee, in accordance with Rule 4-7.7(a) [now Rule 4-7.19(a)], Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. This rule states that "any lawyer who advertises services through any public media or through written communication sent in compliance with rule 4-7.4 shall file a copy of each such advertisement with the standing committee on advertising for evaluation of compliance with these rules." The inquirer's newsletter constitutes a written communication that will be mailed to prospective clients under Rule 4-7.4(b) [now Rule 4-7.18(b)]. A copy of the newsletter must, therefore, be filed for review.

Under existing Committee policy, once an advertisement has been reviewed, it need not be refiled unless the advertisement is changed to incorporate new information beyond that set forth in Rule 4-7.2(c)(10) [now Rule 4-7.16]. 1 This rule describes the following information as presumptively permissible:

    (A) subject to the requirements of this rule and rule 4-7.10, the name of the lawyer or law firm, a listing of lawyers associated with the firm, office locations and parking arrangements, disability accommodations, telephone numbers, Web site addresses, and electronic mail addresses, office and telephone service hours, and a designation such as "attorney" or "law firm";

    (B) date of admission to The Florida Bar and any other bars, years of experience practicing law, number of lawyers in the advertising law firm, and a listing of federal courts and jurisdictions other than Florida where the lawyer is licensed to practice;

    (C) technical and professional licenses granted by the state or other recognized licensing authorities and educational degrees received, including dates and institutions;
    (D) foreign language ability;

    (E) fields of law in which the lawyer practices, including official certification logos, subject to the requirements of subdivisions (c)(2) and (c)(3) of this rule;

    (F) prepaid or group legal service plans in which the lawyer participates;

    (G) acceptance of credit cards;

    (H) fee for initial consultation and fee schedule, subject to the requirements of subdivisions (c)(4) and (c)(5) of this rule;

    (I) a listing of the name and geographic location of a lawyer or law firm as a sponsor of a public service announcement or charitable, civic, or community program or event;

    (J) common salutary language such as "best wishes", "good luck", "happy holidays", or "pleased to announce"; and

    (K) a lawyer referral service may advertise its name, location, telephone number, the referral fee charged, its hours of operation, the process by which

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    1 Refiling may also be required if the advertisement is to be used in different medium that requires evaluation under different rules. For example, a yellow pages ad initially reviewed under rules governing advertisements in the public print media that is later used in a direct mail campaign must be refiled because it must be subsequently reviewed under rules governing written communications.
    referrals are made, the areas of law in which referrals are offered, the geographic area in which the lawyers practice to whom those responding to the advertisement will be referred, and, if applicable, its nonprofit status, its status as a lawyer referral service approved by The Florida Bar, and the logo of its sponsoring bar association.

For purposes of evaluating newsletters, only that portion containing information about his law firm represents lawyer advertising. Thus, changes to substantive articles containing no information about the law firm do not, standing alone, trigger the need to refile.

Based on the foregoing, following initial review by the Committee, the inquirer must refile his newsletter only if he adds new information about his law firm and the additional information is not presumptively permissible under Rule 4-7.2(c)(10) [now Rule 4-7.16].

[Revised: 02-19-2014]