First Hypothetical: The Old-School Cold Call
In the first hypothetical, a lawyer obtains a list of people (all non-lawyers) who have recently been arrested and calls them by phone to offer legal services. The committee concluded that the conduct is a straightforward violation of Rule 7.3(b) as the lawyer initiated an in-person communication, the persons contacted were not personally known by the lawyer, and the communication was for the lawyer’s financial gain.
Second Hypothetical: Outsourced “Lurking”
In the second hypothetical, a lawyer’s marketing department, of which the lawyer has direct supervision, hires a lead-generator service. The service engages in a practice of “lurking” in chat rooms to identify victims or relatives of victims of major catastrophes. Next, the service researches these individuals and contacts them by phone to see if they are looking for a lawyer. The lawyer is not aware of these specific practices, but accepts the referrals. The committee determined that the lawyer violated Rule 7.3 because the communications were in-person contact made for the lawyer’s financial gain. The committee also pointed out that the lawyer violated the supervision rule by failing to properly train the lead generator.
Third Hypothetical: “Take My Boss’s Card”
The third hypothetical involves a paralegal who works at a law firm and also works part-time as a paramedic. The law firm supports the paralegal’s outside work because the firm believes that the work as a paramedic brings new business to the firm. The paralegal was promised a bonus for distributing the firm’s contact information to accident victims. The committee concluded that the in-person solicitation by the paralegal on the law firm’s behalf violates Rule 7.3 and also raises a potential violation of the supervision rule.
Fourth Hypothetical: “Please Pass Along My Number”
The final hypothetical posits a situation wherein a lawyer asks a friend who is a banker to provide the lawyer’s contact information to clients or employees of the bank who may be in need of the lawyer’s estate-planning services. In this case, the committee concluded that the conduct does not violate the solicitation rule because the lawyer did not target a specific person and the lawyer does not have authority over the banker, including whether the banker will share the contact information at all and what the banker communicates about the lawyer. The committee found this scenario to be similar to “word of mouth” referrals, which similarly do not violate the non-solicitation rule.
In light of the opinion, lawyers are advised to review the version of Rule 7.3 adopted in their home jurisdictions and take steps as necessary to train non-lawyers under their supervision regarding the parameters of the non-solicitation rule.