Link to original WordPerfect Document

                                         115 N.J.L.J. 579
                                         May 16, 1985


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.

* * *

This archive is a service of Rutgers University School of Law - Camden