Editor's Note: See Rule 7.2(e) of the Revised Rules for additional considerations.
Private Lawyer Referral Service
Opinion rules that a lawyer may affiliate with a private referral service under certain conditions.
May a group of lawyers enter into an agreement with a corporation operated for profit under which the corporation (a) as agent for the participating attorneys, advertises the availability of legal services through a private lawyer referral service; (b) makes referrals of persons who respond to the advertisement to the participating lawyers; and (c) is paid a fixed annual fee as compensation for its services as advertising and referral agent of the participating lawyers?
Yes, if the conditions set forth in Rule 2.2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct are satisfied:
1. The compensation payable to the corporate agent of the participating lawyers for administrative services shall be reasonable in amount.
2. Advertisements placed through the corporate agent must be paid from the fees paid to the corporate agent by participating attorneys. The corporate agent may not expend its own funds to advertise its own lawyer referral service. It may advertise only as the agent of participating attorneys.
3. The corporate agent may not profit from its referral of prospective clients to participating attorneys. Payment of fixed fees in advance of performing the services described in the inquiry do not violate this condition provided such fees and the compensation they represent are reasonable in amount. Such fees payable to the corporate agent do not materially differ from the compensation paid to the employees and agents of the nonprofit lawyer referral service approved in CPR 359.
4. The corporate agent and its employees may not initiate contact with prospective clients.
5. All advertisements shall comply with the requirements of Rule 2.2(c)(5) and Rule 2.1.
Any lawyer participating in the arrangement shall be professionally responsible for its operation. Under no circumstances may a lawyer affiliate with a referral service which offers legal advice or otherwise engages in the unauthorized practice of law.