114 N.J.L.J. 620
December 13, 1984
Propriety of Lawyer Conducting Free
Public Seminar on Legal Topics
and Advertising Same in News Media
The inquirer desires to conduct free seminars for the public
on various legal topics. The latter would include wills and
estates, general real estate transactions, family law and divorce,
and general law for the layman. The seminars would be free and
conducted by the inquirer or associates or members of his law firm.
The lectures would be structured, and there would be a question
and answer period in the course of each session.
The inquirer desires to know:
A) Is it proper to conduct free seminars for the benefit of the public?
B) Is it ethical to advertise in the newspapers that such free seminars will be conducted by a specific law firm at a specific time and place?
C) Would it be improper for him (and presumably, any member or associate of his firm) to accept employment from a seminar participant at a later time?
We have recently dealt with most of the inquiries in Opinion 540, 114 N.J.L.J. 387 (1984), in which we stated that similar seminars conducted by a lawyer through a for-profit corporation were not improper. In Opinion 540, we attempted to provide some guidelines in connection with such seminars. While the seminars are obviously intended to provide a medium for advertising the law firm, such advertising is not improper now under Bates v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 350 (1976),and cases on this subject decided thereafter. See also RPC 7.2 and the comments following that Rule. Thus, the answer to the first and second inquiries are in the affirmative.
As to the third question, this also is not improper, with the caveat that the seminar must be conducted as a public service being furnished to the community by the legal profession and not used merely as a forum for soliciting clients.
While the comment to RPC 7.2 states that, "the public's need to know about legal services can be fulfilled in part through advertising" it goes on to note that "nevertheless, advertising by lawyers entails the risk of practices that are misleading or overreaching." If a person who has attended one of the seminars elects to contact the inquirer or his law firm for representation, we see no objection to the inquirer undertaking the representation.