95 N.J.L.J. 410
April 27, 1972
Services for Low Income Persons
This inquirer requests an opinion as to the extent to which an
attorney may "advertise" that he represents only "poor persons." He
says that the county in which he practices makes no provision for
free legal services. The inquirer does intend to charge fees for
his services, but at "only a fraction of minimum scheduled rates."
It has been settled that any advertising by such a lawyer would be violative of former Canons of Professional Ethics, Canon 27 presently DR 2-102. A.B.A. Comm. on Professional Ethics and Grievances, Opinion 191 (1939) dealt with a plan by a group of lawyers to solicit professional implant at reduced rates from persons unable to pay the usual and ordinary fees. The solicitation included the names of the lawyers in the group.
The opinion states:
There is no impropriety in a lawyer accepting employment and limiting his charge for services rendered to the ability of the client to pay therefor. The vice in the proposed plan is the solicitation through advertisement of professional employment in behalf of specifically named lawyers.
American Bar Association, Committee on Professional Ethics and Grievances, Opinion 227 (1941) lays down the rules by which a local bar association properly may make known the general "method and purpose" of a lawyer referral plan to provide competent legal services to persons in low income groups at fees within their ability to pay. In approving such a plan it was stressed that no solicitation for any individual lawyer was involved, it was supervised by the local bar association, and there was no advertising of names of the lawyers constituting the panel.
It is our opinion, therefore, that the inquirer is bound to observe the rules contained in DR 2-101 relating to publicity in general and DR 2-102 relating to professional notices, letterheads, offices and law lists.