Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors scheduled consideration of, inter alia, proposed revisions to Rule 4-7.22, The Florida Bar’s lawyer referral rule, at its July 26, 2013 meeting at Amelia Island.
The BOG’s Review Committee on Professional Ethics has been looking at the recommendations of a Special Committee on Lawyer Referral Services since 2012. The BOG Review Committee voted to support several recommendations from the Special Committee to revise Bar Rule 4-7.22, including a potentially controversial revision which would prohibit lawyers from belonging to referral services which, in addition to lawyers, also refer callers for other professional services from the same incident as the one which resulted in the referral to the lawyer. This proposed revision would primarily affect large referral services such as Ask Gary and 411-PAIN, which services refer callers for both medical treatment and legal assistance.
Additional proposed rule revisions would include a requirement that lawyers notify The Florida Bar of the referral services with which they participate, a requirement that a law firm designate a lawyer from that law firm to be primarily responsible for complying with the lawyer referral rules, language specifically prohibiting a lawyer or law firm from making the initial contact with a referred client, and a requirement that the lawyer or law firm disclose to potential clients that the lawyer or law firm pays to participate in the referral service.
Finally, under the proposed revisions, the lawyer or law firm would be prohibited from referring a client to another person, organization, or service in exchange for receiving a referral. The portions of the lawyer referral rule which prohibit attorneys from participating in referral services that engage in direct or any other solicitation prohibited by Bar rules or that do not follow Bar advertising rules and other rule provisions would not be changed.
Bottom line: If approved by the BOG and implemented by the Florida Supreme Court, these proposed rule revisions would add to the changes already made to the lawyer referral rule in the Court’s recent advertising opinion, which became effective on May 1, 2013. If you have an opinion on these proposed lawyer referral rule revisions and would like to make your opinion known, you contact the Florida Bar Board of Governors member(s) in your area.
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.
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