Updated rules to govern lawyer advertising

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Culminating a process that began five years ago, the Indiana Supreme Court has approved the first attorney advertising rule change of its kind in about a generation.

While the 20-page order amending the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct entails several revisions to the Rule 7 series, one of the most significant aspects of the new rules is a provision that prevents attorneys from “ambulance chasing,” or directly contacting potential clients immediately following an incident that might lead to a personal injury or wrongful death action.

The rules are aimed at bringing Indiana more in line with what most of the nation has already done in following model rules adopted a decade ago by the American Bar Association, and Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard says the revisions will liberalize some of the areas where the state has been more conservative on attorney advertising.

Chief Justice Shepard and three of his colleagues announced and signed the changes at the Indiana State Bar Association annual president’s dinner Thursday night. The rule changes take effect Jan. 1, 2011.

“Taken as a whole, this is a much more modern and flexible approach to the questions our profession faces, and those issues lawyers and their clients face,” the chief justice said, moments before signing the new rules alongside outgoing ISBA president Rod Morgan of Indianapolis and incoming president Jeff Lind of Terre Haute.

This was the final Indiana rule change this fall and the court held off on signing this batch of revisions until the ISBA meeting, because that’s where the process had started back in 2005, the chief justice said.

That year, then-ISBA president Clyde Compton from Merrillville announced the review would begin on the state’s advertising rules and in early 2006 a special committee began meeting to explore potential revisions. The Board of Delegates approved proposed rules in October 2006 and forwarded those to the Indiana Supreme Court’s Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, which has reviewed and tweaked the proposal during the past four years.

Indiana has been on the conservative side of attorney advertising rules nationally, and the state hadn’t adopted changes as many other jurisdictions had after the American Bar Association offered model rules in 2000, the chief justice said.

Generally, the new rules hit on a common theme that lawyer advertising is permissible as long as it’s not false or misleading, but the court left unresolved pressing issues such as whether Super Lawyer designations should be allowed and how the state might create a review system for pre-approval. Those issues weren’t included in the proposal sent from the ISBA to the Supreme Court back in 2006.

Modernizing Section 7 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct, the court has revamped the rules to embrace e-mail and technological advances in recent decades. Specifically, the changes encompass Rules 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, and 7.5. They provide commentary for each revision to help attorneys understand the rationale and what the rules mean, and the changes include more focus on law firm trade names and the creation of a 30-day cooling off period before attorneys can directly solicit to potential clients after an accident or disaster.

On the cooling off period provision in 7.3(b)(3), the order states, “This restriction is reasonably required by the sensitized state of the potential clients, who may be either injured or grieving over the loss of a family member, and the abuses that experience has shown exist in this type of solicitation.”

The chief justice also highlighted how the changes liberalize Rule 7.5, which deals with law firm names and letterheads that have been the subject of litigation in recent years.

In a report to the House of Delegates today, the Lawyer Advertising Rules Committee pointed out that aside from these revisions that the court has been considering, future issues that warrant review might include: material submitted to blogs and social media and how those are subject to attorney advertising rules, and the question of when information submitted by or on behalf of lawyers to the Internet, blogs, and social media might be considered “public communication” within the meaning of the advertising rules. Those issues tie into what the ISBA Legal Ethics Committee is exploring, as it’s formed a subcommittee during the past year to address ethical issues regarding the use of social media.

A copy of the newly-signed rules can be found online here.


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues