Washington Amends Lawyer Marketing Rules to Permit In-Person Solicitation

Earlier this month, the Washington Supreme Court approved amendments to the RPCs permitting in-person solicitation and use of the designation of “specialist” in lawyer advertising. Below are the highlights, courtesy of NW Sidebar.

RPC 7.1, which requires truthfulness in all lawyer marketing communications regardless of the form, remains. The comments to RPC 7.1, in turn, are expanded to address advertising generally, specialization and law firm names that formerly resided in now-eliminated rules: respectively, former RPCs 7.2, 7.4 and 7.5. Of note in an age when most lawyers focus their practices narrowly, Comment 8 to RPC 7.1 now permits lawyers to specifically state that they are “specialists”—as long as that is true.

RPC 7.3, which governs in-person solicitation, is also reduced to its constitutional core and now generally permits in-person solicitation unless the contact is misleading, the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the physical or mental state of the person contacted impairs their judgment on employing legal counsel, or the solicitation amounts to harassment (including instances where the target informed the lawyer they did not wish to be contacted).

The package of amendments retains the general prohibition on paying for referrals outright but moves that provision to RPC 7.3(b). An accompanying technical amendment to RPC 5.5 makes clear that law firms can continue to practice across state lines.

Will Oregon follow suit? With COVID-19, it isn’t likely any Washington lawyers will take immediate advantage of the new leniency in solicitation. More pertinent for now is the ability to call yourself a specialist if you truly are.

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