Online Attorney Client Matchmaking and For-Profit Referral Services: 21st Century Innovation Clashes with 20th Century Rules - Breakout #1

Thursday, May 31 
(2:00 - 3:20pm)

Moderator: James McCauley
Panelists: Diana K. Ashton, Alberto Bernabe, Lawrence J. Fox, Mark Henriques

Model Rules 5.4(a) and Rule 7.2(b) generally prohibit lawyers from sharing fees with non-lawyers and paying a non-lawyer for a recommendation or referral. Several states have issued ethics opinions that say lawyers may not participate in online attorney-client matching or for-profit referral services without violating these rules, while some other states are considering changing the rules. A lawyer’s use of a for-profit online attorney-client matching service (“ACMS”), such as Avvo, Inc. (“Avvo”), potentially could expand the market for legal services and lower legal costs for both consumers and lawyers. Are any competitive restrictions caused by these rules justified by an important client-protective policy that would prohibit an attorney’s use of these new digital platforms? This panel will discuss these issues, the current regulatory environment and whether the current rules stifle innovation and access to legal services.

Materials

  1. Avvo for ABA Conference