STATE BAR OF TEXAS

In its meeting on January 7 & 8, 1996, the Advertising Review Committee approved the following interpretive comment concerning how Part 7 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct will be applied to attorney presences on the Internet. Attorneys will have until June 1, 1996 to bring their Internet advertising into compliance and file it with the Advertising Review Committee.

17. The Internet and Similar Services Including Home Pages.

A.The Home Page First Screen.

Certain publications on the Internet or similar services are public media advertisements and are subject to the provisions of Part 7 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. Unless the home page would otherwise be exempt from the filing requirements under Rule 7.07(d), a lawyer or firm publishing a home page on the Internet must file a hard copy, including the URL address of: (1) the first screen which is sent to the computer of an accessing person when the home page location (URL) is accessed; and (2) any material changes in format that vary from the first screen of the original home page. Pre-approval for the first screen of the home page is available.

B.Information Linked to the First Screen of the Home Page.

Generally, additional information that the lawyer or law firm publishes on the Internet or other similar services beyond the first screen of the home page should not be submitted for pre-approval or filed with the Advertising Review Committee.

However, additional information beyond the first screen that is primarily concerned with solicitation of prospective clients by a lawyer or law firm is considered public media advertisement that must comply with Part 7 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, including the filing requirements of 7.07. The following examples are generally not considered to be primarily concerned with solicitation of prospective clients: newsletters; news articles; legal articles; editorial opinions; illustrations; questionnaires; fact or opinion survey forms; announcement of office openings and relocations; request for proposals or information from the public; legal product specifications; E-mail and E-mail response forms; attorney biographical information; announcement or personnel changes; attorney and support staff recruiting; job openings; legal development and events, including verdicts, judgments, court rulings, administrative rulings, and/or legislation; announcement of seminars and events, including on-line registration forms therefor; links to other Internet sites (legal or otherwise); and entertainment/amusement devices.

C.Compliance with Part 7 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct Including Rule 7.04(a-c) and (h-o).

Information that may not be considered primarily concerned with solicitation of prospective clients must still comply with the applicable provisions of Part 7 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, including Rule 7.04(a-c) and (h-o). Attorney biographical information must contain appropriate statements and/or disclaimers as required by 7.04(a-c).

References to a submitting lawyer's or law firm's accomplishments or record, including verdicts, judgments, court rulings, and administrative rulings, must be accompanied by an appropriate disclaimer as well as the information set forth in Interpretive Comment 3 regarding unjustified expectations. The home page first screen must also disclose the geographic location by city or town of the lawyer's or firm's principal office.

In order to maintain consistency and bring Interpretive Comment 15 into line with the language in Comment 17, the following amended version of Comment 15 (which was previously published in the November Bar Journal) was approved by the Committee as well.

15. Advertisements Referring to Additional Information or Recordings.

If a public media advertisement or writing refers to additional information which may be available to prospective clients, such as taped messages or printed pamphlets that provide information concerning a person's or entity's legal rights, the additional information should not be submitted for pre-approval or filed with the Advertising Review Committee. However, if the information contains matters designed primarily to solicit prospective clients by the lawyer or firm, then this information must be filed in accordance with Rule 7.07. A lawyer who responds to a request for information by a prospective client with an individualized letter is not subject to the Rule 7.05 governing written solicitation communications and is not required to file such letter.