Florida Bar’s Special LRS Committee looks at restricting lawyer’s participation in for-profit lawyer referral services which also make medical referrals

            Hello and welcome to this JACPA Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent report in The Florida Bar News regarding proposals made to The Florida Bar’s Special Committee on Lawyer Referral Services which would restrict Florida lawyers’ participation in for-profit lawyer referral services which make other referrals.

At its January 13, 2012 meeting, the Special Committee reviewed several proposals that would restrict lawyers from participating in referral service which also handle referrals for non-legal services, including medical treatment.  The Special Committee was created to examine alleged concerns about for-profit services which provide both medical and legal referrals. The Committee reviewed four proposals and decided to send the four proposals to Bar staff and Bar Legal Counsel Barry Richard for their review and responses before the committee’s next meeting.
The Special Committee reviewed the following proposals/options at its January 2012 meeting:

1.         That a lawyer referral service shall not have (any relationship with) (any financial contractual, or ownership interest in) a medical referral service or any person, group of persons, association, organization, or entity that specifically advertises in this state to accident victims or other prospective clients primarily for the purpose of a healthcare provider filing a claim of payment of treatment of an accident or injury victim and that uses a common phone number, universal resource locator (URL), or other form of shared contact.

2.         That a lawyer shall not accept client referrals from any person, entity, or service that also refers or attempts to refer clients to any type of medical provider.

3.         That a lawyer shall not accept client referrals from any person, entity, or service that refers or attempts to refer clients to any other type of professional service.

4.         That a lawyer shall not participate in or accept referrals from a referral service unless the participants in such referral service are members of The Florida Bar or otherwise subject to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

The Special Committee had tentatively approved four other recommendations at an earlier meeting:

1.         Requiring that any case referred by a for-profit service be to a specific lawyer at a firm, who would then be responsible for insuring that the referral service complies with the Bar rules. The Committee acknowledged that the Bar cannot directly regulate private referral services, but it can prohibit lawyers from joining services that do not comply with Bar rules, including rules on advertising.

2.         Requiring lawyers, when they join a referral service, to register with the Bar and provide disclosure of the relationship with the referral service.  According to the Committee, for-profit referral services are currently required to send a list of participating attorneys to the Bar, but some do not comply.

3.         Prohibiting lawyers from accepting a referral from a referral service unless the initial contact is made by the potential client.  The Committee said this would address situations, which came out at the committee’s public hearings, wherein people called a medical referral service seeking treatment after an accident, but were then met at a clinic by a lawyer or paralegal who told them they had to sign up with a lawyer before they could be treated.

4.         Recommending that The Florida Bar, possibly as part of a larger public education project, inform the public about solicitation and referral issues, including that lawyers or their representatives are not allowed to directly contact potential clients.

Bottom line: This Florida Bar Special LRS Committee is considering proposals which would effectively eliminate a Florida lawyer’s participation in for-profit lawyer referral services which also make referrals to medical providers (or to another professional referral service that refers to medical and other providers).  As I have previously reported, the Florida CFO’s office is also conducting its own investigation and is considering legislation to restrict or prohibit such referral services.  Stay tuned…
…be careful out there!

            As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.

THE LAW OFFICE OF JOSEPH A. CORSMEIER, P.A.

PROVIDES ETHICS ADVICE AND EXPERT OPINIONS TO LAWYERS AND LAW FIRMS

DEFENDS LAWYERS IN BAR MISSION AND DISCIPLINE CASES

(AND MUCH MORE!)

My law firm focuses on review, analysis, and interpretation of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, advice and representation of lawyers in Bar disciplinary matters, defense of applicants for admission to The Florida Bar before the Board of Bar Examiners, defense of all Florida licensed professionals in discipline and admission matters before all state agencies and boards, expert ethics opinions, and practice management for lawyers and law firms.  If there is a lawyer or other Florida professional license involved, I can defend the complaint or help you get your license.

If you have any questions or comments, please call me at (727) 799-1688 or e-mail me at jcorsmeier@jac-law.com.  You can find my law firm on the web at www.jac-law.com. In addition to handling individual cases, matters, problems and issues for my clients, I also am on retainer to provide ethics advice to numerous lawyers and law firms throughout the state of Florida.  I also provide legal assistance and advice to numerous individuals and non-legal entities to help insure compliance with the law and rules related to UPL and other issues.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

NOTICE OF CONFIDENTIALITY:  This electronic communication and the information contained herein is legally privileged and confidential proprietary information intended only for the individual and/or entity to whom it is addressed pursuant to the American Bar Association Formal Opinion No. 99-413, dated March 10, 1999 and all other applicable laws and rules.  If you receive this transmission in error, you are advised that any disclosure, copying, distribution, or the taking of any action in reliance upon the communication is strictly prohibited.  Any unauthorized use, distribution, or disclosure of this communication is strictly prohibited.  If you have received this in error, please notify us immediately by return e-mail at the above telephone number and then delete message entirely from your system.  Thank you for your cooperation.


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Filed under Florida Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, joe corsmeier, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism

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