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Lawyers Texting for Clients Deemed OK by Disciplinary Board

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Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline advisory opinion addresses texting between lawyers and prospective clients.

Image of a smart phone

Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline advisory opinion addresses texting between lawyers and prospective clients.

Ohio lawyers can text prospective clients if they comply with applicable rules and abide by restrictions, according to an Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline advisory opinion.

Opinion 2013-2 notes that Prof.Cond.R. 7.2, which governs lawyer advertising, allows text message advertising but “all lawyer advertising, including text message advertising, must comply with Prof.Cond.R. 7.1 and 7.3.”

The opinion’s ethical guidance examines the implications of text message advertising in light of these rules.

Under Rule 7.1, “the text message may not contain a false, misleading, or nonverifiable communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s service.”

The opinion cites additional requirements under Rule 7.3. The text cannot create a “real-time” interaction or involve coercion, duress, or harassment. The lawyer must state how he or she learned of the prospective client’s need for legal services. A lawyer must verify that a prospective client who’s a defendant in a civil case has been served. Texts sent within 30 days of an accident or disaster must include the “Understanding Your Rights” statement in the body of the text and not as a link, attachment, or photograph.

In addition to the requirements under the rules, the opinion also identified three practical considerations.

  • “First, the text message should not create a cost to the prospective client.”
  • “Second, the lawyer should be mindful of the age of the recipient of the text message.”
  • “Finally, lawyers must use due diligence to ensure that any text message advertisement or solicitation complies with the applicable federal and state telemarketing laws.”

Advisory Opinions of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline are informal, nonbinding opinions in response to prospective or hypothetical questions regarding the application of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio, the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Judiciary, the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct, and the Attorney’s Oath of Office.

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