106 N.J.L.J. 98
July 31, 1980
Advertising Legal Fees - With
Reduction to Members of Large Group
An attorney inquires whether a New Jersey lawyer may advertise
the fees he charges for routine legal services in print media in
conformity to DR 2-101 and, at the same time, advertise that in
accordance with DR 2-103, he will provide such services for members
of identifiable groups of at least 100 members at a 25% reduction
because group arrangements permit such reduction in the costs of
producing legal services, without thereby violating the provisions
of DR 2-103, prohibiting solicitation?
It is the attorney's view that the amendments to the Disciplinary Rules (DR 2-101 et seq.) adopted by our Supreme Court after the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977), do not prohibit such advertising, in that no direct solicitation or advertising as to quality of legal services is involved. DR 2-101 deals with publicity and advertising. The approach of that rule is to prohibit false, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive statements relating to the fee or any other aspect of a proposed professional engagement. The ruling does not specify to whom a proper advertisement may be addressed, whether to an individual or a group of individuals. DR 2-103 deals with solicitation of professional employment. That rule deals essentially with direct solicitation DR 2-103(A), and promotional activity by an organization which furnishes legal services to its members, DR 2-103(B). Subsection (D) broadens the scope of subsection (B) by permitting certain enumerated organizations to employ, recommend or pay an attorney for services rendered to its members. Again, these rules do not reach the question posed by the inquirer. His proposed advertisement is not addressed to any organization formed for the purpose of providing legal services for its members and registered with the Supreme Court pursuant to DR 2-103(D)(4)(g). It must also be said that there is no direct prohibition of the proposed advertisement in this rule.
It would appear to us that the proposed advertisement is designed to encourage individuals to form a group for the purpose of obtaining a reduction in fees by the employment of the attorney. It is clear to us that our disciplinary rules have not gone so far as to permit this and, while we have recently approved participation in prepaid legal services plans nationally, Opinion 383, 100 N.J.L.J. 1205 (1977) and locally Opinion 455, 105 N.J.L.J. 441 (1980), nothing we said in those opinions would sanction the proposed advertisement. As pointed out above, the relaxation of the solicitation rules by our Supreme Court as evidenced by DR 2- 103 is directed toward cooperation with organizations furnishing legal services for its members, and it is evident that the Supreme Court wished to maintain close control over even those organizations by limiting the type with which an attorney might cooperate.
The proposed advertisement would circumvent the provisions of
DR 2-103(D) and in particular the requirements of subsection (4)(g). Accordingly, such advertisement is disapproved.