Opinion 91-17
(March 1992)

You have asked for an opinion on the propriety of radio and other types of advertisements which contain soft endorsements by particular clients. These are:

1) The lawyer has always returned my telephone calls.

2) The lawyer has always appeared concerned.

3) The lawyer has given me a sympathetic ear.

4) The lawyer proceeded on a prompt basis.

You further indicate that the statements made will be true. Furthermore, you ask if the advertisement can state that the lawyer got a "good result."

Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct 7.l(a) & (b) provide that:

A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services. A communication is false or misleading if it:

(a) contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits facts necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading;

(b) is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the rules of professional conduct or other law....

This Committee is of the opinion that Rule 7.1 would permit the above so called "soft endorsements," provided they are true. However, both Rules 7.1(a) and (b) would prohibit an outright testimonial by a client (i.e., the lawyer got a good result), because it would create an unjustified expectation about the results the lawyer could achieve, and without further qualification could also be considered materially misleading under Rule 7.1(a) as "good" when used alone is a very subjective term.

The soft endorsements are distinguishable in that they describe characteristics of the lawyer's concern for the clients, and do not relate to the actual success or failure by the attorney in his representation of these clients.

While this Committee has not previously addressed the question of client testimonials, the Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Association has done so in opinion 88-142. That opinion outright prohibits the use of direct client testimonials regarding the outcome of a case.

     

The Philadelphia Bar Association's Professional Guidance Committee provides, upon request, advice for lawyers facing or anticipating facing ethical dilemmas. Advice is based on the consideration of the facts of the particular inquirer's situation and the Rules of Professional Conduct as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Committee's opinions are advisory only and are based upon the facts set forth. The opinions are not binding upon the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. They carry only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.