October 10, 2017 feature

Online Client Referral Programs Condemned as Unethical

Increasingly, states are banning attorneys from participating

By Lauren M. Gregory

Although at least one state appears to be considering ethics rule amendments to make it easier for attorneys to use online client referral services, the majority of states that have evaluated such business models have condemned them as promoting improper fee-sharing and other ethics violations and have banned bar members from participating.

Much of the criticism has centered around the referral site Avvo, which connects lawyers and clients and facilitates flat-fee arrangements for various types of legal services. However, any organization that is not a law firm but delivers business and collects per-transaction fees for it—whether called “marketing fees,” as in Avvo’s case, or something else—could be sanctionable under the majority view.

Any organization that is not a law firm but delivers business and collects per-transaction fees for it could be sanctionable under the majority view.
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