Under Rule 7.1 of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney must not make any statement, communication or advertisement that may be considered false, deceptive, fraudulent or misleading.
An advertisement may be considered false or misleading if it implies the outcome of a particular legal matter or it compares the services of the lawyer to that of another without and factually substantiated evidence. Advertisements that could potentially create an unjustified expectation to the website’s viewer or potential clients that the attorney can achieve certain results are also misleading.
Truthful statements that can be considered misleading are also prohibited. Truthful statements that omit certain information or facts which make the statement materially misleading as a whole are not considered truthful. A truthful statement that causes a reasonable person to create an unfounded, specific conclusion about the attorney’s services from the information are also considered misleading.
Under Rule 7.4, an attorney is permitted to state whether they practice in a particular legal area or not. This rule prohibits an attorney from using specific verbiage or implying they have been recognized as a specialist or certified in any particular legal field, except:
- If the attorney is admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office;
- If the lawyer is engaged in Admiralty practice,
- If the attorney has been certified by the Supreme Court of Virginia as a specialist; or
- If the attorney has been certified as a specialist in a particular field of law by a named organization.