With the uptick in advertising, be aware there may be client generator situations trying to involve lawyers inappropriately in live telephone or real-time electronic contact with potential clients. The contact to the potential client may be from a service employed by a non-lawyer professional to call people involved in auto accidents from police reports. That service then up streams the information to a telemarketer to solicit clients through initiating live telephone calls for the non-lawyer professional. The telemarketer for the non-lawyer professional then asks if the person also needs a lawyer and adds a lawyer to the call to sign up the client. This is especially problematic if the lawyer has a relationship with the non-lawyer professional providing other services to the client, that involves a reciprocal referral agreement between lawyers, or between a lawyer and a nonlawyer, which is prohibited.
Rule 7.2: Advertising and Recommendation of Professional Employment allows a lawyer to advertise services through written, recorded, or electronic communication, including public media, subject to the requirements of Rule 7.1 and 7.3.
Rule 7.2 (b) does not allow a lawyer to not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services except for the reasonable costs of advertisements or the usual charges of a legal service plan, nonprofit or lawyer referral service that complies with Rule XVI of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar.
A lawyer may pay others for generating client leads, including internet-based client leads, if the lead generator does not recommend the lawyer, any payment to the generator is consistent with Rules 1.5 and 5.4, and the lead generator’s communications are consistent with Rule 7.1. See also Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct Rules 5.3 and 8.4 (a).
Rule 7.3 Solicitation of Clients does not allow a lawyer to solicit professional employment when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain, by in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact unless (1) the person contacted is a lawyer; (2) the person contacted has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.
Comments to Rule 7.3 indicate a potential for abuse when a solicitation involves direct in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact by a lawyer with someone known to need legal services.
Carefully evaluate a potential client generator or other advertising options to ensure that it meets all the ethical requirements of the Rules of Professional Conduct. As always, if you have questions about this or any other loss prevention topic, please feel free to contact me. At OBLIC we’re here to help!
Gretchen Mote, Esq.
Director of Loss Prevention