These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
 
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  Topic: 85 - Business Cards
LEO NumTopicsSummaryDate
0349

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28-Law Firm Staff

85-Business Cards

A law firm's business manager and legal assistant may use business cards if their positions are clearly revealed on the card. 11/30/1979
0338

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28-Law Firm Staff

85-Business Cards

A law firm's non-lawyer employees may use business cards if the cards indicate their non-lawyer status. 10/8/1979
0504

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85-Business Cards

A lawyer employed by an accounting firm may use a business card bearing the notation "JD" and "Tax Specialist." [This LEO was probably overruled by Rule 7.4(d), which would require disclosure that Virginia has no procedure for approving certifying organizations.]3/1/1983
0775

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13-Marketing - Miscellaneous

16-Lawyer's Personal Interests

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

85-Business Cards

A lawyer employed by an insurance carrier must make full disclosure of the employment status on business cards, letterheads, office signs and other public representations. 4/3/1986
1374

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13-Marketing - Miscellaneous

31-Protecting and Disclosing Confidences and Secrets

42-Payments to Solicit Recommendations

85-Business Cards

A lawyer may accept referrals from a mental health therapist as long as the lawyer maintains total loyalty to the client and does not reveal any client confidences without consent. The lawyer may also leave business cards at the therapist's office as long as they are truthful and the lawyer does not compensate the therapist. 9/13/1990
0931

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77-Communicating with an Individual Adversary

85-Business Cards

A lawyer may include on a business card an indication that the lawyer's clients request that the lawyer be contacted before the clients are asked any questions. 6/11/1987
0399

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85-Business Cards

A lawyer may include on a business card the lawyer's status as a professional engineer and president of a construction consultant firm. 1/20/1981
0682

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42-Payments to Solicit Recommendations

85-Business Cards

A lawyer must account to a client upon request for any fees paid for future services. 4/10/1985
0314

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85-Business Cards

An insurance salesman who holds a law degree but is not actively engaged in practice may use a business card indicating that the lawyer holds a JD degree and is a member of the Virginia State Bar. 4/4/1979
1750

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47-Lawyer Referral Services

82-Advertising

85-Business Cards

This compendium opinion (initially issued on 3/20/01, and revised on 4/4/06, 12/18/08 and 4/20/18 [in light of 2017 Virginia Rules changes]) provides guidelines about lawyer advertising: advertisements using actors to portray lawyers or employees must disclose "that the actor is not truly an employee or member of the firm." Advertisements may not use terms such as "no recovery, no fee". "We guarantee to win, or you don't pay." "We are paid only if you collect." "No charge unless we win" and must explain that litigation expenses and court costs would be payable regardless of outcome (because the public "generally may not distinguish the differences between the terms 'fee' and 'costs'"). Lawyers may use a corporate trade or fictitious name for their firm as long as they practice under that name (and use the name on signage, letterheads, business cards, etc.) and the name is not misleading. It is “potentially misleading” for lawyers to advertise their “use of a non-exclusive office space, including an executive office rental,” if the lawyer does not actually provide legal services there (quoting Virginia LEO 1872’s warning that lawyers may not list such space to mislead prospective clients about the law practice’s geographic diversity or resources). Advertisements may not indicate that automobile accident victims "will have to consult an attorney." Lawyers participating in lawyer referral services must comply with all ethics rules and earlier LEOs, and may not falsely state or imply that the lawyer's inclusion on a referral list is based on quality, that the referral list includes all lawyers or law firms eligible for the list on some objective criteria, or that there are many lawyers participating in the service in a certain geographic area. After the 2017 Rules change eliminating the disclaimer obligation when lawyers advertise specific or cumulative case results, it “can be misleading” for lawyers to advertise “specific case results” depending on the circumstances (for instance, a lawyer advertising that she obtained a $1 million verdict after refusing a $2 million settlement offer would have to explain those additional facts). Advertisements may not use statements such as "the best lawyers" or "the most experienced" because they “cannot be factually substantiated.” Clients' testimonials may not make claims that lawyers could not themselves make, but may include such "soft endorsements" as "the lawyer always returned phone calls” and “the attorney always appeared concerned." Lawyers may state that an A.V. Martindale-Hubbell rating represents its "highest rating." Lawyers may state that they are included in publications such as "The Best Lawyers in America," but must describe the years they were included in such publications if they are ever delisted, may not include any reference to such lists if the lists are "not based upon objective criteria or a legitimate peer review process" or are "available to any lawyer who is willing to pay a fee," must not parlay inclusion on such a list into a claim that "I am the best lawyer in America," and may not "impute any such endorsement to others in the law firm not so recognized." Lawyers may not use the word "specialist" or "specialize" if such terms are false or misleading. Lawyers may claim to be “certified as a specialist,” as long as the claim is not false or misleading, and they identify the organization that “purportedly conferred the certification” (which “must undertake some bona fide evaluation” rather than awarding certificates to any lawyers who pay a fee or joins the organization). Lawyers may not use the word "expert" or "expertise" if "the claim cannot be factually substantiated."].4/20/2018

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn