Posted Jan 26, 2012 01:50 pm CST
Lawyers who want to market discounted services with Groupon or similar websites won’t run afoul of state ethics rules if guidelines are followed, according to a New York ethics opinion.
The money paid to the website running the ad is not an improper referral fee, as long as it is a reasonable payment for the type of advertising, according to the opinion (PDF) by the New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics.
The opinion adds other caveats: “A lawyer may properly market legal services on a ‘deal of the day’ or ‘group coupon’ website, provided that the advertisement is not false, deceptive or misleading, and that the advertisement clearly discloses that a lawyer-client relationship will not be created until after the lawyer has checked for conflicts and determined whether the lawyer is competent to perform a service appropriate to the client. If the offered service cannot be performed due to conflicts or competence reasons, the lawyer must give the coupon buyer a full refund. The website advertisement must comply with all of the rules governing attorney advertising, and if the advertisement is targeted, it must also comply with Rule 7.3 regarding solicitation.”
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog notes the legal opinion.
ABAJournal.com: “Around the Blawgosphere: Does Lawyer Who Offered Groupon Have Regrets?; Digital Death Plans”
ABAJournal.com: “Proposed NC Ethics Opinion Says Lawyers Can’t Ethically Offer Groupon Deals”