Although long having a reputation for imposing the most restrictive rules in the nation on lawyer advertising, Iowa gradually removed most of these restrictions over the decades. Until 2013, however, there were notable exceptions: a continuing instruction that information about lawyers, legal services, and legal fees be presented in a “dignified” fashion; a strict prohibition on claims by a lawyer about a level of quality or ability; and rigorous controls on the sound and visual content of broadcast media advertising. Now those specific restrictions have been replaced by (more uniform) language based on the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. In doing so, the Iowa Supreme Court more directly connected the ethics rules on lawyer advertising to the public interest in preventing deceptive or misleading messages.
The Authors, both of whom have served on drafting committees for the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct, describe the 2013 revisions to the regulations governing communication by lawyers about legal services, with a particular focus on the elimination of the vague standard of “dignity” in lawyer advertising, the removal of the ban on making claims about a level of quality or ability in a lawyer’s reputation, and the lifting of stringent restrictions on advertising through electronic media.