RULE 7.3 - SOLICITATION OF CLIENTS

Effective Date: 3/1/2016

(a) A lawyer, or the lawyer's representative, shall not by in-person or telephone contact, or other real-time contact, solicit professional employment from anyone known to be in need of legal services in a particular matter when a significant motive for the solicitation is the lawyer's pecuniary gain unless the person contacted:

(1) is a lawyer; or

(2) has a family, personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.

(b) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment by written, recorded , or electronic communication or by in-person, telephone, or real-time contact even when not otherwise prohibited by paragraph (a), if:

(1) the target of the solicitation has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer;

(2) the solicitation involves coercion, duress, or harassment; or

(3) the receipt of the solicitation is uninvited and imposes any involuntary economic cost on the prospective client to respond to the solicitation.

(c) Notwithstanding the prohibitions in paragraph (a), a lawyer may participate with a prepaid or group legal service plan operated by an organization not owned or directed by the lawyer which uses in-person or telephone contact to solicit memberships or subscriptions for the plan from persons who are not known to need legal services in a particular matter covered by the plan.

Comment

[1] A solicitation is a targeted communication initiated by the lawyer that is directed to a specific person and that offers to provide, or can reasonably be understood as offering to provide, legal services. In contrast, a lawyer's communication typically does not constitute a solicitation if it is directed to the general public, such as through a billboard, an Internet banner advertisement, a website or a television commercial, or if it is in response to a request for information or is automatically generated in response to Internet searches.

[2] The lawyer is a trained advocate and the client in need of legal services may be emotionally vulnerable. As a result, a person in need of legal services, who may be overwhelmed by the circumstances giving rise to the need for legal services, may find it difficult to fully evaluate all available alternatives with reasoned judgment in the lawyer's presence and insistence upon immediate retention. Such a situation is fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, unaccountable misrepresentation and over-reaching.

[3] Other forms of solicitation are permissible under these rules, offering lawyers alternative means of conveying necessary information to those who may be in need of legal services. Advertising may be communicated via virtually any type of media. Materials may be mailed to in most circumstances and the Internet is available for lawyers to present a vast array of credentials in an affordable way, without subjecting a person known to be in need of legal services to persuasion that may overwhelm the person's judgment.

[4] Additionally, the contents of advertising and other non-direct communications permitted in these rules can be permanently recorded so that they cannot be disputed. This potential for informal review is itself likely to help guard against statements and claims that might constitute false or misleading communications in violation of Rule 7.1. The contents of direct communications between a lawyer and a person known to be in need of legal services can be disputed and are not subject to verification and the protection that can derive from a record. Consequently, the direct communication is more likely to approach the line between accurate representations and those that are false or misleading.

[5] There are several circumstances in which direct communications with prospective clients are permitted including when the prospective client is a lawyer, a family member, a current or prior client or where the lawyer accepts the case without any pecuniary gain.

[6] Any solicitation that contains information that is unlawful or is false or misleading within the meaning of Rule 7.1 is prohibited. Additionally, any solicitation that involves contact with a person who has indicated a desire to the lawyer not to be solicited, any solicitation that involves coercion, duress or harassment, or any solicitation that imposes any involuntary economic cost are all impermissible under this rule. If after sending a letter or other communication to a a person known to be in need of legal services in a manner that is permissible by these rules, a lawyer receives no response, any further effort to communicate with the person may be deemed harassment under this rule. Likewise, multiple uninvited e-mail messages could fall under this category.

[7] Paragraph (c) of this Rule permits a lawyer to participate with an organization that uses personal contact to solicit members for its group or prepaid legal service plan, provided that the personal contact is not undertaken by any lawyer who would be a provider of legal services through the plan. The organization referred to in paragraph (c) must not be owned by or directed (whether as manager or otherwise) by any lawyer of law firm that participates in the plan. For example, paragraph (c) would not permit a lawyer to create an organization controlled directly or indirectly by the lawyer and use the organization for direct solicitation of legal employment of the lawyer through memberships in the plan or otherwise. The communication permitted by these organizations must also not be directed to a person known to need legal services in a particular matter, but is to be designed to inform potential plan members generally of another means of affordable legal services. Lawyers who participate in a legal service plan must reasonably assure that the plan sponsors are in compliance with the other rules governing communications concerning the services of a lawyer.

Rule 7.3 amended effective 03/01/04, 08/01/06, 03/01/16.

Reference: Minutes of Joint Committee on Attorney Standards on 06/08/99, 09/16/99, 11/19/99, 03/23/00, 06/13/00, 09/15/00, 11/17/00, 06/11/02, 09/12/02, 11/15/02, 06/24/03, 06/10/14, 09/12/14.

Effective Date Obsolete Date
03/01/2016 View
08/01/2006 03/01/2016 View
03/01/2004 08/01/2006 View