January 20, 2016 Top Story

"Severe" Lawyer Referral Rules Needed

Florida high court rejects referrals from non-lawyer-owned agencies

By Catherine McLeod Chiccine

In what it termed a “severe” but “necessary” action to protect the public, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that Florida attorneys may accept referrals only from agencies owned by Florida Bar members. The court rejected the Florida Bar’s proposed changes to the Bar’s lawyer referral rule, finding that the proposals did not go far enough, and ordered the Bar to rework the rule so as to prohibit lawyers from accepting referrals from agencies not owned by Florida lawyers. Such a change would make Florida the first state to impose such a requirement on its attorneys.

New Rule “Absolutely Necessary to Protect the Public” 

Addressing a need for reform, the Florida Bar submitted amendments to Florida Bar Rule 4-7.22 regarding regulation of attorney referral services. The proposed amendments would not allow attorneys to accept referrals from services with misleading names that do not tell potential clients the lawyer’s location or that pressure lawyers to refer clients to other professionals.

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