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RPC 94

July 13, 1990

Private Lawyer Referral Service

 

Opinion rules that a private lawyer referral service must have more than one participating lawyer and that all participants must share in the cost of operating the referral service.

 

Inquiry:

 

Lawyer A wishes to operate a private lawyer referral service. Although Lawyer A is presently the only attorney participating, Lawyer A believes that Lawyer B, who resides and practices in an adjoining county, will also choose to participate. Lawyer A indicates that Lawyer B would be expected to pay a prorated fee for expenses relating to advertising in his county of residence only. Lawyer A will pay all other expenses until other attorneys become participants. Lawyer A further indicates that any attorney who wants to do a newspaper advertisement particular to his or her county or area will be expected to bear those costs alone. Participating attorneys will be expected to share the cost of radio or television advertising in their geographical areas on a prorata basis.

 

Opinion:

 

Implicit in the concept of a private lawyer referral service is the participation of more than one attorney. Any advertising of such an enterprise having only one participant would be misleading and in violation of Rule 2.1. For that reason Attorney A may not commence operation of the lawyer referral service until at least one other attorney has agreed to participate.

 

In order to fully participate in a private lawyer referral service, an affiliated attorney must share not only the cost of advertising but also the cost of operating the referral service. For this reason as well, Lawyer A may not operate a lawyer referral service with an attorney who does not contribute to the cost of operating the referral service and therefore cannot be viewed as a full participant in the service.

 

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