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Tennessee Relaxes Lawyer Ad Rules, Following National Trend

Sept. 2, 2021, 9:10 PM

Tennessee is the latest state to relax lawyer advertising rules, following a nationwide trend to update standards thought to be outdated.

The Tennessee Supreme Court issued an order on Wednesday adopting changes to the rules proposed by the state bar association.

By deleting three of the five rules and moving “helpful guidance” to the comments section, the rules are more streamlined, and are comparable to the American Bar Association’s ad rules, said Brian S. Faughnan, an attorney with Lewis Thomason in Memphis.

“These revisions also should help all lawyers by reducing the amount of red tape that serves to discourage lawyers from publicly communicating about the availability of their legal services to the public,” said Faughnan, who’s also president of the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers and chair of the Tennessee Bar Association’s ethics committee.

The ABA updated its ad rules in 2018 to reflect technological advances since the 1980s, when they were issued. Numerous state rules, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Nebraska, mirror the ABA guidelines to varying degrees.

Changes to ABA rules 7.1 through 7.5 were based on reports from the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers that the rules needed to be modernized and simplified. Tennessee amendments included changes to rules 7.1 and 7.3. Rules 7.2, 7.4, and 7.5 were deleted.

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The changes are helpful to attorneys because they’re more straightforward and level the playing field.

The revisions “move Tennessee much closer to a world in which the only advertisements which are prohibited are ones that are false or misleading and the only solicitations that are prohibited are ones which involve coercion, duress, fraud, harassment, intimidation, overreaching, or undue influence,” said Faughnan.

But the changes have some “Tennessee-specific restrictions,” and lawyers need to heed those, he said.

Faughnan said the amended rules help smaller firms that have to compete against larger ones with marketing employees to help bring in business.

Under Rule 7.3(f), solo practitioners now have the option to hire employees to help find clients, he said.

The court’s order didn’t include an effective date, so they’re likely effective immediately by default, said Faughnan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan in Washington at mstanzione@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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