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115 N.J.L.J. 579
May 16, 1985
ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON PROFESSIONAL ETHICS
Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court
Professional Services Club
Offering Discounts to Members
The inquirer asks whether a lawyer ethically may participate
as a listed attorney in an organization which solicits from the
public through direct marketing programs membership in its
organization for a fee. In turn the organization offers to its
members the services of the selected professional persons on its
roster (including lawyers) at a 25% discount from "the established
professional's fee" for particular services.
As is implicit in the facts set forth in the inquiry, we
assume that the lawyer selected by the organization must supply his
schedule of fees to the organization and agree to the discount for
services rendered to its members, but that he does not otherwise
compensate the organization in any manner. We further assume that
the organization intends to operate for profit.
RPC 7.2(c) (formerly DR 2-102(C), as amended, effective
January 16, 1984) prohibits a lawyer from giving anything of value
to a person for recommending the lawyer's services, except for
advertising permitted by the rules, and except that an attorney may
"pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit lawyer referral service,
or other legal service organization".
In our opinion, when a lawyer offers his services at a
discount to the members of an organization which uses such offer to
solicit payments for membership in that organization, the lawyer is
giving something "of value" to that organization. Such offer is
therefore prohibited unless it comes within the exceptions stated
in RPC 7.2(c).
Since the organization in question is not a "not-for-profit
lawyer referral service", the lawyer's activity in question is
permitted only if the arrangement may be interpreted as payment of
"the usual charges" of an "other legal service organization".
Legal service organizations to which a lawyer may give a thing
of value for, or otherwise assist in, promoting the use of his
services are, in our opinion, those legal service organizations
which are specified in RPC 7.3(e).
RPC 7.3 generally contains the current rules relating to
solicitation of clients by lawyers either directly or through third
parties. RPC 7.3(e) is the rule relating to solicitation of clients
indirectly through lawyer referral or legal service organizations.
This rule essentially is former DR 2-103(E) and antedated the
January 16, 1984, revisions of the Disciplinary Rules (relating to
advertising) and the September 10, 1984, adoption of the Rules of
Professional Conduct. It, therefore, continues to classify those
lawyer referral or legal service organizations or plans which
lawyers may assist, or with which they may properly affiliate, and
our pre-1984 opinions on the subject apply. [See inter alia,
Opinion 517, 111 N.J.L.J. 488 (1983), and opinions cited therein.]
The organization, which is the subject of this inquiry, is not
an organization as defined in RPC 7.3(e) (l), (2), or (3).
Therefore, unless the organization complies with the requirements
of RPC 7.3 (e) (4), in all of its subdivisions, including its
registration with the Supreme Court, a lawyer may not assist, or
participate in, its promotion of the use of his services.
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