Whether an Internet marketing voucher or coupon sold by a lawyer for legal representation is consistent with the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct will depend on the terms and conditions of the voucher or coupon sold as well as the other facts and circumstances. Absent specific terms and conditions, however, it is unlikely that an Arizona lawyer can ethically use Internet marketing voucher- or coupon-based legal services due to a panoply of ethical concerns arising under Ethical Rules (ERs) 1.1, 1.2, 1.6, 1.7, 1.9, 1.15, 1.16, 1.18, 5.4, 7.1, and 7.2.
A law firm may list, on firm letterhead and in other communications, lawyers who are not employed by the firm but are “of counsel” to the firm. To avoid being misleading, however, the firm letterhead and other communications must conspicuously identify the “of counsel” lawyers’ status as well as any other limitations on their relationship with the law firm.
ER 7.1 prohibits a lawyer from making false or misleading communications about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. Under this rule, the name under which a lawyer practices law may be misleading if, for example, it is materially different from the name appearing on the records of the State Bar of Arizona. On the other hand, a lawyer may, for purposes of engaging in an activity that does not constitute the practice of law, adopt any name by which the lawyer chooses to be known, so long as the lawyer has no fraudulent or improper motive for doing so.
Subject to the requirement that a law firm’s website address not be false or misleading, the mere use of “.org” by a for-profit law firm does not violate the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct. Ariz. Ethics Op. 01-05 is modified accordingly.
A lawyer may ethically participate in an Internet-based group advertising program that limits participation to a single lawyer for each ZIP code from which prospective clients may come, provided that the service fully and accurately discloses its advertising nature and, specifically, that each lawyer has paid to be the sole lawyer listed in a particular ZIP code. To remain a permissible group advertising program, such a service may do nothing more to match clients with lawyers than to provide inquiring clients with the name and contact information of participating lawyers, without communicating any substantive endorsement. The service will lose the protection afforded by the required disclosures and cross the line that distinguishes permissible advertising from an impermissible for-profit referral service if the required disclosures are difficult to find, read, or understand; are contradicted by other messages on the website; or are made so late in the process that the consumer of legal services is unlikely to read them before contacting participating lawyers.
A lawyer may not pay to participate in the for-profit client/attorney internet matching service described in this opinion (referred to hereinafter as “the Service”) because the Service substantially functions as, and holds itself out as, a referral service and because the information presented by the Service on behalf of participating lawyers is materially misleading.
Under ER 7.1, as amended in 2003, it is ethical for a lawyer to advertise that the lawyer is listed in The Best Lawyers in America as long as the advertisement is truthful and includes the year and specialty for the listing. In light of the amendment to ER 7.1, Opinion 91-08 is no longer viable to the extent it conflicts with this Opinion.
Under ER 5.7, adopted in December 2003, a lawyer who operates a separate investment advisory business may refer non-clients to an investment advisory firm that pays a referral fee to the lawyer, so long as the lawyer takes reasonable steps to assure that the non-clients understand they are not receiving legal services and they do not have the protections of a lawyer-client relationship. A lawyer who provides such services to former clients must also comply with the confidentiality requirements and other obligations under ER 1.9, and should take particular care to assure that the former clients understand they do not have a lawyer-client relationship with respect to the investment transactions. A lawyer may not refer a current client to such a program, however, unless the lawyer meets the "heavy burden" of showing compliance with ER 1.7 and 1.8(a). Also, a lawyer who provides investment advisory services must satisfy ERs 7.1 through 7.3 and maintain separation between the law practice and the lawyer's investment advisory business so that they do not appear to be related.
To the extent previous Arizona ethics opinion 98-09 is inconsistent with ER 5.7 and the analysis in this opinion, the earlier opinion is no longer effective.
A dissenting opinion issued contemporaneously by the committee, recommends a per se ban against lawyers accepting money from third-party professionals in exchange for referring law clients to those third-party payors. However, like the majority, we agree that a lawyer can accept a fee from a third-party professional for referring non-clients to the third-party's firm, provided that the lawyer complies with Rule 5.7.
A law firm must remove from the firm's name the name of one of the partners of the firm once the partner is transferred to disability inactive status by the Supreme Court. [ERs 7.1, 7.5]
An attorney may give a de minimis gift to an attorney or a non-attorney after a client referral if the gift is an expression of thanks and not a quid pro quo payment.
A group of lawyers who share an office suite but are separate firms may share a common phone number for communications with Spanish-speaking prospective clients and hire a common receptionist simply to route calls to lawyers in the group based upon practice area without being deemed a "referral service." Such an arrangement appears to be group advertising. If the receptionist's only interaction with the prospective clients is to forward the calls to the appropriate attorney, then his or her common employment by the separate firms probably will not impute conflicts among the group members. [ERs 1.6, 1.10, 5.3, 7.1(r)(3), 7.5]
A law firm domain name does not have to be identical to the firm's actual name but it otherwise must comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct including refraining from being false or misleading nor may it imply any special competence or unique affiliations unless factually true. A for-profit law firm domain name should not use the top level domain suffix ".org" nor should it use a domain name that implies that the law firm is affiliated with a particular non-profit organization or governmental entity. [ERs 7.1, 7.4, 7.5]
A law firm may list on its letterhead attorneys who are not admitted to the State Bar of Arizona as being "Of Counsel" to the firm. The law firm must state on the letterhead the "Of Counsel" attorneys are not members of the State Bar of Arizona, identify that they are "only admitted" in certain states and that their practice in Arizona is limited to federal law matters. They also may indicate the out-of-state attorneys are available only for consultation in federal Social Security matters. The law firm may engage in a fee sharing arrangement by both paying and receiving fees from the "Of Counsel" attorneys. [ERs 1.5(e), 5.5, 7.1, 7.5]
A law firm may not advertise that it “specializes” in a certain area of law where no member of the firm is a State Bar Board certified specialist. Further, if a member is board certified, firm advertising must identify that lawyer’s name and not state that the “firm” specializes in any particular area of law. [ER 7.1(a), 7.4]
A lawyer employed by an architectural firm may not provide legal services to the firm's clients, where the firm pays the attorney a salary but charges the clients an hourly rate for the lawyer's services, because of possible conflicts of interest and impermissible fee-sharing with non-lawyers. [ER 1.7, 1.8(f), 5.4, 7.1]
A departing lawyer may contact persons for whom the lawyer has provided legal services while employed by the former firm. The restrictions of ER 7.3(a) do not apply where the lawyer has had significant personal contact with those persons although the content of the communication remains subject to ER 7.1(a) and 7.3(d)(2), (3). Moreover, a solicitation letter sent to former clients is not subject to the requirements of ER 7.3(b), although it must conform to the advertising requirements of ER 7.1. Where the departing lawyer has had significant personal contact with a client in connection with the provision of legal services to that client by the firm, the lawyer has a mandatory duty under ER 1.4 to notify the client of his or her departure. The client must be provided with the opportunity to choose between going with the departing lawyer or remaining with the firm. As noted, there are potential legal issues associated with contacting clients served while employed by the former firm, which are outside the jurisdiction of the Committee, but which should be considered in connection with any communications. [ER 1.4, 5.6, 7.1, 7.3]
A national lawyer association ethically may place its membership directory on its Internet web site, categorized by practice areas. The association may want to: 1) list State Bar admissions for each member, to avoid unauthorized practice of law concerns; and 2) clarify that the “practice area” designations do not necessarily mean that the lawyers are certified specialists in those fields. [ER 5.5(a), 7.1(d), 7.4]
Arizona lawyers ethically may not participate in an Internet service that sends legal questions from individuals to attorneys based upon the subject matter of the question. Lawyers also could not pay a fee for such referrals or give the service a portion of the legal fees earned from the referral. [ER 1.5, 5.4, 5.5, 7.1(j), 7.1(r)(3), 7.4]
A lawyer may receive referrals from a nonprofit organization to whom the lawyer has made a charitable donation as long as the referrals are incidental to the charitable activity and not consideration for the lawyer's charitable donations. [ER 7.1(j), 7.1(r)(3)]
This opinion discusses a law firm and a marketing agency entering into a marketing services agreement. [ERs 7.1, 7.3] Would the proposed marketing services agreement violate any of the Rules of Professional Conduct? 2. Do the Rules permit a lawyer to purchase a list of customers from a towing company?
A lawyer who is also an accountant may indicate both professional titles on his legal stationery, but: (1) the business must remain separate (financially and for advertising purposes although they may "reside" in the same physical location); (2) the non-legal business may not be used as a "feeder" for the law firm (i.e. clients of the non-legal business should not be solicited for legal work); (3) clients who are referred to the non-legal business must be advised of the lawyer's interest in the accounting firm and that the attorney-client privilege does not extend to the accounting work; (4) appropriate safeguards must be in place to assure against breaches of confidentiality and conflicts for the legal practice; and (5) the lawyer should not indicate that he is a lawyer in his accounting advertisements unless he complies with the Ethical Rules on advertising. [ERs 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 5.4, 7.1, 7.5]
This opinion discusses several ethical issues with respect to lawyers using the Internet to communicate including, for example, confidentiality concerns when sending email to a client, advertising considerations for websites and the applicability of Arizona's Rules of Professional Conduct to communications disseminated from or received in Arizona [ERs 1.6, 1.7, 5.5, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5]
A law firm ethically may employ, on a salary basis, a marketing director to engage in marketing activities that would otherwise be permissible for lawyer to do directly. [ERs 7.1, 7.3]
A lawyer may not have legal fees paid for a client through a referring business and the lawyer may not be employed part-time, by the nonlawyer referring business to provide legal services to clients of the business. [ERs 1.8, 5.4, 7.1]
A law firm may provide firm promotional materials to businesses, along with offering a discounted fee to employees of those businesses, without running afoul of ER 7.1, as long as both the employees are not paid anything to recommend the lawyer's services and the employers are not active intermediaries between the employees and the lawyer. Such promotional materials are presumed to otherwise comply with the general advertising requirements set forth in ER 7.1. [ER 7.1, 7.2, 7.3]
An Arizona attorney may be hired as an associate to operate the Arizona office of an out-of-state law firm as long as: (1) the associate has a bona fide employment relationship with the firm; (2) the Arizona attorney must be fully responsible for the Arizona office, including the supervision of partners in Arizona who are not yet admitted in Arizona (and limiting their practices to federal law); and (3) the firm must clearly indicate on all communications and letterhead where each of the attorneys is admitted and that the Arizona associate is the managing associate for the Arizona office. [ERs 5.1, 5.2, 5.5, 7.1, 7.5]
A lawyer referral service that would connect callers to a participating lawyer based upon the caller's zip code and lawyer's area of expertise is an impermissible referral service with impermissible referral fees. [ER 7.1]
An attorney may offer to donate 10% of a legal fee to the charity of a client's choosing as long as: 1) the total fee charged is reasonable; 2) the attorney's independent professional judgment is not affected; 3) charities are not paid for referrals; and 4) the advertisement of the offer complies with ER 7.1.
Lawyer may charge percentage surcharge in lieu of billing actual expenses and costs if agreed to in writing, approximates actual costs, and overall fees are reasonable.
A lawyer referral program that derives profits from subscription fees paid to it by organizations such as employers and unions is in compliance with the Ethical Rules where participating attorneys would pay a one-time fee for listing in a directory.
This is a formal opinion of the Advertising Committee of the State Bar of Arizona. This is not an opinion of the Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct. However, this opinion should be filed with the Formal Opinions of the Ethics Committee because the Advertising Committee was disbanded in January of 1994 and issued only three opinions.
This opinion reviews a lawyer referral program for members of a trade association. A non-profit referral service may earn revenues in excess of its costs. [ER 7.1(r)(4)]
Solicitation letter with proposed attorney contract that would be sent to a “target audience,” reviewed for compliance with rules regarding solicitations sent to individuals with known legal needs. [ER 7.1(a, b, g), ER 7.3(b) and (g)]
A lawyer announcement regarding serving as a judge pro tem should include some clarification regarding the extent of service, if there is minimal service. Such clarification might indicate the year of service or the number of panels served upon.
But see Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinon 03-06.
This is a formal opinion of the Advertising Committee of the State Bar of Arizona; this is not an opinion of the Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct. However, this opinion should be filed with the Formal Opinions of the Ethics Committee because the Advertising Committee was disbanded in January, 1994 and issued only three opinions. Opinion No. 93-12 was renumbered. That opinion is now Opinion No. 01-93. Opinion No. 93-12 no longer exists.
Lawyer may employ a non-testifying trial consultant, and pay him a prearranged bonus fee of if the case settles or is won at trial, subject to certain guidelines.
Lawyer may not cooperate with a non-lawyer-generated business which prepares documents and gives advice to landlords in landlord/tenant matters.
Committee discusses guidelines for attorneys participating in seminars sponsored by the Speakers' Bureau of the State Bar.
Attorney who owns a collection agency which solicits prospective customers asks whether he may establish an attorney/client relationship with those customers whose collection matters have not been successfully resolved through traditional non-legal collections procedures.
Under facts presented, ethically proper for an attorney to be listed in a labor union's "preferred provider guide", to offer a discount rate, and to give seminar presentations to union members.
Use of name of retired or semi-retired partner in law firm's name and the level of required disclosure as to his or her status in listings.
Law firm may mail to members of public a vinyl wallet embossed with law firm's name intended to hold checklist describing what a person should do after being involved in an automobile accident.
SUPERSEDED BY ETHICS OPINION 05-03
Attorney advertising that he is listed in The Best Lawyers in America or in Who's Who in American Law.
Dual representation of workers' compensation carrier and injured workers in prosecution of third party claim; soliciting professional employment from workers on request of carrier.
Law firm brochure mailed to select group of non-client businesses; publicizing the availability of firm members to speak before such groups; using the services of Welcome Wagonto distribute firm's brochures.
Announcement letter of attorney who is counsel to governmental agency upon leaving his position to enter private practice.
Participation in "Bankruptcy Attorneys Trust", a nationwide cooperative television advertising service; misleading title of the service.
Law firm's bi-monthly publication on the subject of Arizona construction law mailed to companies and individuals engaged in construction and construction related activities.
Listing non-lawyer support personnel on lawyer's or firm's letterhead.
Lawyer publishing and sending professional announcement to other lawyers, present or former clients, friends and relatives.
Unethical use of corporate law firm name, "X and Associates" when no associate lawyers are employed.
It is ethically proper for a lawyer or law firm to accept credit cards for the payment of legal fees and retainers. The acceptance of credit cards does not infringe upon the confidential nature of communications between an attorney and a client, nor does it represent a conflict of interest or an interference with the attorney's professional independence. The lawyer and the client must enter into an agreement as to which party will bear the lender’s discount; the client must fully understand the terms of this agreement.
Committee comments on three proposed targeted, direct mail solicitations.
Lawyer using the slogan "We take the pain out of accidents."
Law firm sponsoring legal seminars for clients and non-clients, and mailing brochures to publicize the seminars.
Multi-person law firm listed on letterhead and other communication of another law firm as "of Counsel" to that firm.
Attorney participating with nonlawyer financial planner in presenting seminars for general public on financial planning, estate planning, and probate problems.
Advertisement that states "No Recovery, No Fee", or its equivalent is misleading if it does not disclose the clients responsibility to pay costs even when there is no recovery.
Attorney showing area of specialty on his letterhead that is not recognized by Arizona Board of Legal Specialization.
Attorney using direct mailing to contact individuals with known legal problems, to inform them that they may have causes of action.
Law firm's mere factual statement of new associate's background does not imply ability to achieve legal results.
Law firm may indicate that attorney becoming "of counsel" is a retired Judge.
Proposed association between Arizona lawyer and a two-man New York law firm subject to certain conditions.
Attorney's proposed newspaper advertising seeking representative plaintiff to challenge constitutionality of city's parking ordinance.
Unless corporation is not-for-profit and bar association approved, it is improper to cooperate with corporation who proposes to provide group advertising and refer potential clients to participating attorneys.
Affiliation of in-state and out-of-state of attorneys for the purpose of advertising is permissible as long as the advertising is not false or misleading.