Posted Jan 19, 2010 02:37 pm CST
Five Connecticut lawyers who got leads on potential clients from a website operated by Total Attorneys Inc. have won dismissal of ethics complaints alleging they broke the law by paying nonlawyers for the referrals.
The short opinion by Connecticut’s Statewide Grievance Committee did not explain the decision, according to the Connecticut Law Tribune and the Chicago Tribune. A longer decision will be issued within two weeks.
Lawyers who participate in the Total Attorneys network pay $65 to obtain information on potential clients who enter their ZIP code through the company’s websites, the Connecticut Law Tribune says.
The ethics probe was the result of complaints filed by Norwich bankruptcy lawyer Zenas Zelotes after a Total Attorneys marketing representative contacted him. He has filed ethics complaints against more than 500 lawyers in 47 states who participate in the Total Attorneys network. Seven other states have found the Total Attorneys advertising is permissible or have closed investigations without taking action, Total Attorneys president Kevin Chern told the Chicago Tribune.
According to a press release, the complaints were dismissed after the close of the chief disciplinary counsel’s evidence, before the lawyers offered a defense to the charges.
The Chicago Tribune says the Connecticut decision is significant because it was seen as a test case for Zelotes’ claims.