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HomeRule Eleven

Rule Eleven: Advertising and Solicitation

(a) A paralegal may advertise the availability of his/her services to attorneys, but shall do so in such a way as to not be false or misleading.

(1) A paralegal who chooses to advertise may do so through the use of public media, such as telephone directories, legal directories, newspapers or other periodicals, billboards, radio or television, or through other forms of written communication.

(2) A paralegal shall not advertise services directly to a lawyer's clients.

(b) A paralegal may carry and distribute a business card which shall contain the following:

(1) the name of the paralegal;

(2) the designation "paralegal" or "legal assistant" or such other designation indicating the individual's status;

(3) the name of the employer; and

(4) not contain false or misleading information.

(c) A paralegal's name may be included on the letterhead of law firm stationery, if the paralegal's status is clearly indicated on the letterhead, so as to not be misleading.

(d) A paralegal shall not use the terms "certified, specialist, expert," or any other, similar terms to describe his/her qualifications unless the reference is truthful, verifiable and not misleading.

(e) A paralegal shall not solicit professional employment on behalf of an attorney where the significant motive for doing so is the lawyer and/or paralegal's pecuniary gain.

Commentary

The rules regarding advertising and solicitation apply equally to paralegals working in traditional employment settings and to those who are freelance paralegals. Both the traditional paralegal and the freelance paralegal provide legal services for attorneys. They do not provide services to clients while working independently of a supervising attorney. Consequently, paralegals are allowed to advertise their services to attorneys, with the caveat that such advertisement must not be false or misleading. A communication is false or misleading if it meets the criteria established in Rule 7.1 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct.

Paralegals are allowed and encouraged to carry business cards and to have their names appear on law firm letterhead. This follows from the Supreme Court's decision in Bates v. Arizona (1977), 433 U.S. 350, 97 S.Ct. 2691, 53 L.Ed.2d 810, which held that a communication that is not misleading cannot be absolutely prohibited without violating free speech rights.

However, in order to avoid misleading clients as to the nonlawyer status of the paralegal, the paralegal must always include his or her title on any document designed to be seen by a present or potential client. Therefore, business cards and letterhead must clearly identify the nonlawyer as such. See, In re Bachmann (Bkrtcy. S.D. Fla 1990), 113 B.R. 769.

Paralegals are absolutely prohibited from engaging in the solicitation of potential clients. Solicitation is defined in Rule 7.3 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct as "contact by a person other than a lawyer in person, by telephone or telegraph, by letter or other writing, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient." In Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar (1978), 436 U.S. 447, 98 s. Ct. 1912, 56 L. Ed.2d 444, the Court disallowed the solicitation of clients, holding that in-person solicitation presents certain dangers to the public. The Court reasoned that this includes solicitation by the lawyer's agents. Conceivably, this would include the lawyer's paralegal.