The Board of Governors of The Florida Bar gives notice of filing with the Supreme Court of Florida, on or about August 15, 2016, a petition to amend the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. The full text of the proposed amendments is printed below. Some are substantive revisions; others are merely editorial refinements. These amendments are on the Board of Governors agenda for final action on July 29, 2016, and therefore have not been approved by the Board, but the Board is providing this official notice because the Supreme Court of Florida has directed that the Bar file the amendments on or before August 15, 2016. The amendments filed with the Supreme Court of Florida may vary from the amendments published in this notice. A copy of the petition may be requested by contacting the Rules Administrative Coordinator, The Florida Bar, 651 East Jefferson St., Tallahassee 32399-2300 or calling (850) 561-5600, ext. 5751. Members who desire to comment on these proposed amendments may do so within 30 days of the filing of the Bar’s petition. Comments must be filed directly with the clerk of the Supreme Court of Florida, and a copy must be served on the executive director of The Florida Bar. Rule 1-12.1, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, governs these proceedings.
Chapter 4 Rules of Professional Conduct
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subchapter 4-7 Information about legal services
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RULE 4-7.12 REQUIRED CONTENT
(a) Name and Office Location. All advertisements for legal employment must include:
(1) the name of at least 1 lawyer, the law firm, the lawyer referral service if the advertisement is for the lawyer referral service, the qualifying provider if the advertisement is for the qualifying provider, or the lawyer directory if the advertisement is for the lawyer directory, responsible for the content of the advertisement; and
(2) the city, town, or county of 1 or more bona fide office locations of the lawyer who will perform the services advertised.
(b) Referrals. If the case or matter will be referred to another lawyer or law firm, the advertisement must include a statement to
(c) Languages Used in Advertising. [no change]
(d) Legibility. [no change]
All advertisements are required to contain the name of at least 1 lawyer who is responsible for the content of the advertisement. For purposes of this rule, including the name of the law firm is sufficient. A lawyer referral service, qualifying provider or lawyer directory must include its actual legal name or a registered fictitious name in all advertisements in order to comply with this requirement.
Referrals to Other Lawyers
Language of Advertisement
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RULE 4-7.13 DECEPTIVE AND INHERENTLY MISLEADING ADVERTISEMENTS
A lawyer may not engage in deceptive or inherently misleading advertising.
(a) Deceptive and Inherently Misleading Advertisements. [no change]
(b) Examples of Deceptive and Inherently Misleading Advertisements. Deceptive or inherently misleading advertisements include, but are not limited to advertisements that contain:
(1) statements or information that can reasonably be interpreted by a prospective client as a prediction or guaranty of success or specific results;
(2) references to past results unless
(3) comparisons of lawyers or statements, words or phrases that characterize a lawyer's or law firm's skills, experience, reputation or record, unless such characterization is objectively verifiable;
(4) references to areas of practice in which the lawyer or law firm does not practice or intend to practice at the time of the advertisement;
(5) a voice or image that creates the erroneous impression that the person speaking or shown is the advertising lawyer or a lawyer or employee of the advertising firm. The following notice, prominently displayed would resolve the erroneous impression: "Not an employee or member of law firm";
(6) a dramatization of an actual or fictitious event unless the dramatization contains the following prominently displayed notice: "DRAMATIZATION. NOT AN ACTUAL EVENT." When an advertisement includes an actor purporting to be engaged in a particular profession or occupation, the advertisement must include the following prominently displayed notice: "ACTOR. NOT ACTUAL [ . . . . ]";
(7) statements, trade names, telephone numbers, Internet addresses, images, sounds, videos or dramatizations that state or imply that the lawyer will engage in conduct or tactics that are prohibited by the Rules of Professional Conduct or any law or court rule;
(8) a testimonial:
(A) regarding matters on which the person making the testimonial is unqualified to evaluate;
(B) that is not the actual experience of the person making the testimonial;
(C) that is not representative of what clients of that lawyer or law firm generally experience;
(D) that has been written or drafted by the lawyer;
(E) in exchange for which the person making the testimonial has been given something of value; or
(F) that does not include the disclaimer that the prospective client may not obtain the same or similar results;
(9) a statement or implication that The Florida Bar has approved an advertisement or a lawyer, except a statement that the lawyer is licensed to practice in Florida or has been certified pursuant to chapter 6, Rules Regulating the Florida Bar; or
(10) a judicial, executive, or legislative branch title, unless accompanied by clear modifiers and placed subsequent to the person’s name in reference to a current, former or retired judicial, executive, or legislative branch official currently engaged in the practice of law. For example, a former judge may not state “Judge Doe (retired)” or “Judge Doe, former circuit judge.” She may state “Jane Doe, Florida Bar member, former circuit judge” or “Jane Doe, retired circuit judge….”
Implied Existence of Nonexistent Fact
Predictions of Success
The prohibitions in subdivisions (b)(1) and (b)(2) of this rule 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, if the results are not objectively verifiable or are misleading, either alone or in the context in which they are used. For example, an advertised result that is atypical of persons under similar circumstances is likely to be misleading. A result that omits pertinent information, such as failing to disclose that a specific judgment was uncontested or obtained by default, or failing to disclose that the judgment is far short of the client's actual damages, is also misleading.
Rule 4-1.6(a), Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, prohibits a lawyer from voluntarily disclosing any information regarding a representation without a client's informed consent, unless one of the exceptions to rule 4-1.6 applies. A lawyer who wishes to advertise information about past results must have the affected client's informed consent. The fact that some or all of the information a lawyer may wish to advertise is in the public record does not obviate the need for the client's informed consent.
Characterization of Skills, Experience, Reputation or Record
The rule prohibits statements that characterize skills, experience, reputation, or record that are not objectively verifiable. Statements of a character trait or attribute are not statements that characterize skills, experience, or record. For example, a statement that a lawyer is aggressive, intelligent, creative, honest, or trustworthy is a statement of a lawyer's personal attribute, but does not characterize the lawyer's skills, experience, reputation, or record.
Descriptive statements characterizing skills, experience, reputation, or a record that are true and factually verified are permissible. For example, the statement "Our firm is the largest firm in this city that practices exclusively personal injury law," is permissible if true, because the statement is objectively verifiable. Similarly, the statement, "I have personally handled more appeals before the First District Court of Appeal than any other lawyer in my circuit," is permissible if the statement is true, because the statement is objectively verifiable.
Descriptive statements that are misleading are prohibited by this rule. Descriptive statements such as "the best," "second to none," or "the finest" will generally run afoul of this rule, as such statements are not objectively verifiable and are likely to mislead prospective clients as to the quality of the legal services offered.
Aspirational statements are generally permissible as such statements describe goals that a lawyer or law firm will try to meet. Examples of aspirational words include "goal," "dedicated," "mission," and "philosophy." For example, the statement, "I am dedicated to excellence in my representation of my clients," is permissible as a goal. Similarly, the statement, "My goal is to provide high quality legal services," is permissible.
Areas of Practice
Implying Lawyer Will Violate Rules of Conduct or Law
Florida Bar Approval of Ad or Lawyer
An advertisement may not state or imply that either the advertisement or the lawyer has been approved by The Florida Bar. Such a statement or implication implies that The Florida Bar endorses a particular lawyer. Statements prohibited by this provision include, "This advertisement was approved by The Florida Bar." A lawyer referral service also may not state that it is a "Florida Bar approved lawyer referral service," unless the service is a not-for-profit lawyer referral service approved under chapter 8 of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar. A qualifying provider also may not state that it is a "Florida Bar approved qualifying provider" or that its advertising is approved by The Florida Bar.
Judicial, Executive, and Legislative Titles
This rule prohibits use of a judicial, executive, or legislative branch title, unless accompanied by clear modifiers and placed subsequent to the person’s name, when used to refer to a current or former officer of the judicial, executive, or legislative branch. Use of a title before a name is inherently misleading in that it implies that the current or former officer has improper influence. Thus, the titles Senator Doe, Representative Smith, Former Justice Doe, Retired Judge Smith, Governor (Retired) Doe, Former Senator Smith, and other similar titles used as titles in conjunction with the lawyer’s name are prohibited by this rule. This includes, but is not limited to, use of the title in advertisements and written communications, computer-accessed communications, letterhead, and business cards.
However, an accurate representation of one's judicial, executive, or legislative experience is permitted if the reference is subsequent to the lawyer's name and is clearly modified by terms such as “former" or “retired.” For example, a former judge may state “Jane Doe, Florida Bar member, former circuit judge” or “Jane Doe, retired circuit judge.”
As another example, a former state representative may not include "Representative Smith (former)" or "Representative Smith, retired" in an advertisement, letterhead, or business card. However, a former representative may state, "John Smith, Florida Bar member, former state representative.”
Further, an accurate representation of one's judicial, executive, or legislative experience is permitted in reference to background and experience in biographies, curriculum vitae, and resumes if accompanied by clear modifiers and placed subsequent to the person’s name
Also, the rule governs attorney advertising. It does not apply to pleadings filed in a court. A practicing attorney who is a former or retired judge
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RULE 4-7.16 PRESUMPTIVELY VALID CONTENT
The following information in advertisements is presumed not to violate the provisions of rules 4-7.11 through 4-7.15:
(a) Lawyers and Law Firms. [no change]
(b) Lawyer Referral Services and Qualifying Providers. A lawyer referral service or qualifying provider may advertise its name, location, telephone number, the
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RULE 4-7.17 PAYMENT FOR ADVERTISING AND PROMOTION
(a) Payment by Other Lawyers. [no change]
(b) Payment for Referrals. A lawyer may not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer's services, except that a lawyer may pay the reasonable cost of advertising permitted by these rules, may pay the usual charges of a lawyer referral service, lawyer directory, qualifying provider or other legal service organization, and may purchase a law practice in accordance with rule 4-1.17.
(c) Payment by Nonlawyers. [no change]
Paying Others for Recommendations
A lawyer is allowed to pay for advertising permitted by this rule and for the purchase of a law practice in accordance with the provisions of rule 4-1.17, but otherwise is not permitted to pay or provide other tangible benefits to another person for procuring professional work. However, 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 lawyer referral programs, qualifying providers, or lawyer directories and pay the usual fees charged by such programs, subject, however, to the limitations imposed by rules 4-7.22 and 4-7.23. This rule does not prohibit paying regular compensation to an assistant, such as a secretary or advertising consultant, to prepare communications permitted by this rule.
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(a) Applicability of Rule. A lawyer is prohibited from participation with any qualifying provider that does not meet the requirements of this rule and any other applicable Rule Regulating The Florida Bar.
(b) Qualifying Providers. A qualifying provider is any person, group of persons, association, organization, or entity that receives any benefit or consideration, monetary or otherwise, for the direct or indirect referral of prospective clients to lawyers or law firms, including but not limited to:
(1) matching or other connecting of a prospective client to a lawyer drawn from a specific group or panel of lawyers or who matches a prospective client with lawyers or law firms;
(2) a group or pooled advertising program, offering to refer, match or otherwise connect prospective legal clients with lawyers or law firms, in which the advertisements for the program use a common telephone number or website address and prospective clients are then matched or referred only to lawyers or law firms participating in the group or pooled advertising program;
(3) publishing in any media a listing of lawyers or law firms together in one place; or
(4) providing tips or leads for prospective clients to lawyers or law firms.
(c) Entities that are not Qualifying Providers. The following are not qualifying providers under this rule:
(1) a pro bono referral program, in which the participating lawyers do not pay a fee or charge of any kind to receive referrals or to belong to the referral panel, and are undertaking the referred matters without expectation of remuneration; and
(2) a local or voluntary bar association solely for listing its members on its website or in its publications.
(1) engages in no communication with the public and in no direct contact with prospective clients in a manner that would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct if the communication or contact were made by the lawyer;
(2) receives no fee or charge that
(3) refers, matches or otherwise connects prospective clients only to persons lawfully permitted to practice law in Florida when the services to be rendered constitute the practice of law in Florida;
(4) does not directly or indirectly require the lawyer to refer, match or otherwise connect prospective clients to any other person or entity for other services or does not place any economic pressure or incentive on the lawyer to make such referrals, matches or other connections;
(6) provides the participating lawyer with documentation that the qualifying provider is in compliance with this rule unless the qualifying provider is The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service or a lawyer referral service approved by The Florida Bar pursuant to chapter 8 of these rules;
(7) responds in writing, within 15 days, to any official inquiry by bar counsel when bar counsel is seeking information described in this subdivision or conducting an investigation into the conduct of the
(8) neither represents nor implies to the public that the
(9) uses its actual legal name or a registered fictitious name in all communications with the public;
(10) affirmatively discloses to the prospective client at the time a referral, match or other connection is made of the location of a bona fide office by city, town or county of the lawyer to whom the referral, match or other connection is being made; and
(11) does not use a name or engage in any communication with the public that could lead prospective clients to reasonably conclude that the qualifying provider is a law firm or directly provides legal services to the public.
(1) must report to The Florida Bar within 15 days of agreeing to participate or ceasing participation with a qualifying provider unless the qualifying provider is The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service or a lawyer referral service approved by The Florida Bar pursuant to chapter 8 of these rules; and
(2) is responsible for the qualifying provider’s compliance with this rule if:
(A) the lawyer does not engage in due diligence in determining the qualifying provider’s compliance with this rule before beginning participation with the qualifying provider; or
(B) the Florida Bar notifies the lawyer that the qualifying provider is not in compliance and the lawyer does not cease participation with the qualifying provider and provide documentation to The Florida Bar that the lawyer has ceased participation with the qualifying provider within 30 days of The Florida Bar’s notice.
Every citizen of the state should have access to the legal system. A person's access to the legal system is enhanced by the assistance of a qualified lawyer. Citizens often encounter difficulty in identifying and locating lawyers who are willing and qualified to consult with them about their legal needs. It is the policy of The Florida Bar to encourage qualifying providers to: (a) make legal services readily available to the general public through a referral method that considers the client's financial circumstances, spoken language, geographical convenience, and the type and complexity of the client's legal problem; (b) provide information about lawyers and the availability of legal services that will aid in the selection of a lawyer; and (c) inform the public where to seek legal services.
Subdivision (b)(3) addresses the publication of a listing of lawyers or law firms together in any media. Any media includes but is not limited to print, Internet, or other electronic media.
A lawyer may not participate with a qualifying provider that receives any fee that constitutes a division of legal fees with the lawyer, unless the qualifying provider is The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service or a lawyer referral service approved by The Florida Bar pursuant to chapter 8 of these rules. A fee calculated as a percentage of the fee received by a lawyer, or based on the success or perceived value of the case, would be an improper division of fees. Additionally, a fee that constitutes an improper division of fees occurs when the qualifying provider directs, regulates, or influences the lawyer's professional judgment in rendering legal services to the client. See e.g. Rules 4-5.4 and 4-1.7(a)(2). Examples of direction, regulation or influence include when the qualifying provider places limits on a lawyer’s representation of a client, requires or prohibits the performance of particular legal services or tasks, or requires the use of particular forms or the use of particular third party providers, whether participation with a particular qualifying provider would violate this rule requires a case-by-case determination.
Division of fees between lawyers in different firms, as opposed to any monetary or other consideration or benefit to a qualifying provider, is governed by Rule 4-1.5(g) and 4-1.5(f)(4)(D).
If a qualifying provider has more than 1 advertising or other program that the lawyer may participate in, the lawyer is responsible for the qualifying provider’s compliance with this rule solely for the program or programs that the lawyer agrees to participate in. For example, there are qualifying providers that provide a directory service and a matching service. If the lawyer agrees to participate in only one of those programs, the lawyer is responsible for the qualifying provider’s compliance with this rule solely for that program.
A lawyer who participates with a qualifying provider should engage in due diligence regarding compliance with this rule before beginning participation. For example, the lawyer should ask The Florida Bar whether the qualifying provider has filed any annual reports of participating lawyers, whether the qualifying provider has filed any advertisements for evaluation, and whether The Florida Bar has ever made inquiry of the qualifying provider to which the qualifying provider has failed to respond. If the qualifying provider has filed advertisements, the lawyer should ask either The Florida Bar or the qualifying provider for copies of the advertisement(s) and The Florida Bar’s written opinion(s). The lawyer should ask the qualifying provider to provide documentation that the provider is in full compliance with this rule, including copies of filings with the state in which the qualifying provider is incorporated to establish that the provider is using either its actual legal name or a registered fictitious name. The lawyer should also have a written agreement with the qualifying provider that includes a clause allowing immediate termination of the agreement if the qualifying provider does not comply with this rule.
A lawyer participating with a qualifying provider continues to be responsible for the lawyer’s compliance with all Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. For example, a lawyer may not make an agreement with a qualifying provider that the lawyer must refer clients to the qualifying provider or another person or entity designated by the qualifying provider in order to receive referrals or leads from the qualifying provider. See Rule 4-7.17(b). A lawyer may not accept referrals or leads from a qualifying provider if the provider interferes with the lawyer’s professional judgment in representing clients, for example, by requiring the referral of the lawyer’s clients to the qualifying provider, a beneficial owner of the qualifying provider, or an entity owned by the qualifying provider or a beneficial owner of the qualifying provider. See Rule 4-1.7(a)(2). A lawyer also may not refer clients to the qualifying provider, a beneficial owner of the qualifying provider, or an entity owned by the qualifying provider or a beneficial owner of the qualifying provider, unless the requirements of rules 4-1.7 and 4-1.8 are met and the lawyer provides written disclosure of the relationship to the client and obtains the client’s informed consent confirmed in writing. A lawyer participating with a qualifying provider may not pass on to the client the lawyer’s costs of doing business with the qualifying provider. See Rules 4-1.7(a)(2) and 4-1.5(a).
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