Monday, September 24, 2012

New Jersey attorneys reprimanded for using wrong font size in client solicitation letter.

Another good example to pass along to students that technical details like font size really do count in practice.  The excerpt below is from a New Jersey Supreme Court's disciplinary review board decision reprimanding two attorneys for not following the rules of professional conduct in connection with solicitation letters sent to clients. Some of the violations relate to the attorneys' failure to follow the font requirements specified in the rules.

These matters came before us on recommendations for an admonition filed by the Committee on Attorney Advertising (CAA). The formal ethics complaint charged respondents with having violated RPC 7.1(a) (prohibiting false or misleading
communications about the lawyer, the lawyer’s services, or any matter in which the lawyer has or seeks a professional involvement), Attorney Advertisinq Guideline 2(a) (March 2, 2005) (Guideline 2(a)) (requiring the phrase "ATTORNEY ADVERTISEMENT" to be at least two font sizes larger than the largest size used in the advertising text), and Opinion No. 35 of the Committee on Attorney Advertisinq, 182 N.J.L.J. 792 (November 21, 2005) (Opinion 35) (requiring attorney advertising
letter to state: "If you are already represented by counsel in this matter, please disregard this advertisement"). 

We decided to treat the recommendation for an admonition as a recommendation for greater discipline, pursuant to R__. 1:2015(f)(4). Following oral argument, and for the reasons set forth below, we determine to impose a reprimand on each of the
respondents for their misconduct.

. . . .

In addition, the font size of the words "ATTORNEY ADVERTISEMENT" violated Guideline 2(.a.). because they were not in a font size two times larger than the largest size used in the text. Finally, the notices prescribed by RPC 7.3(b)(5)(ii) and .(iii) violated Guideline 2(a) because they were in a font size smaller than the
size used in the text.

. . . .

RPC 7.3(b)(5)(i) requires solicitation letters to have "the word ’ADVERTISEMENT’ prominently displayed in capital letters at the top of the first page of text and on the outside envelope, unless the lawyer has a family, close personal, or prior
professional relationship with the recipient." Guideline 2(a) standardizes the size of the text to ensure that it meets the "prominently displayed" requirement of RPC 7.3(b)(5)(i), by mandating that the word "ADVERTISEMENT" be "at least two font
sizes larger than the largest size used in the advertising text."

. . . .

Although there was no evidence presented that identified the size of the font used in the text of the June 3, 2008 letter and the size of the font used for the words "ATTORNEY ADVERTISEMENT," undoubtedly the size ofthe words violated
Guideline 2(a).. The words "ATTORNEY ADVERTISEMENT" are obviously no larger, or not much larger,than the words that appear next to the bullet marks at the end of the letter. Thus, we find that all three letters violated Opinion 35 and Guideline 2(a).

You can read the full disciplinary board decision here.

Hat tip to the Legal Profession Blog.

(jbl).

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_skills/2012/09/new-jersey-attorneys-reprimanded-for-using-wrong-font-size-in-solicitation-letter.html

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