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Ethics Opinion

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CI-688

October 30, 1981

SYLLABUS

    It is not unethical to advertise legal services at a discount, provided the advertisement is not in anyway false, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive, and the time period for which the discount is offered is clearly stated in the news release.

    It is improper to advertise a stated contingency percentage fee for settlement of auto accident cases, without including the amount to be charged if the case cannot be settled before trial.

    It is improper for a lawyer to form an association with a non-lawyer to offer combined real estate brokerage and legal services.

    A lawyer engaged in the practice of law and another business must not commingle the two business pursuits in anyway that would suggest the other business is a feeder for the lawyer's law practice.

    References: DR 3-102(A); Administrative Order 1978-4.

TEXT

An inquiry has been made regarding the propriety of using a circular with attached discount coupon in an advertising campaign that a lawyer contemplate launching.

The circular, which the lawyer contemplates using, appears to fall within the permissive parameters of Supreme Court Administrative Order 1978-4 and therefore, would not be a violation of the Canons, with one exception.

The contemplated circular contains the language "Broker on Staff." The use of this phraseology is potentially misleading since it may indicate that the lawyer is engaged in the brokerage business as well as the business of practicing law or that the lawyer has formed an association with a broker to offer combined services. The use of the phrase violates the condition of Supreme Court Administrative order 1978-4 in that it is potentially misleading and also violates DR 3-101(A). See CI-436.

The proposed advertisement states that your fee would be 30% for accident cases if a settlement is achieved but is silent with regard to the fee that would be charged if the matter was not settle.

This, on its surface, appears to be merely incomplete, However, it is capable of being construed as being misleading, and it is therefore suggested that the lawyer augment that portion of the circular by indicating which fee would be charged in the event that an accident case cannot be settled and must go to trial.

The "news release" or "advertisement" should be further qualified to state a definite period of time within which the offer of a discount with coupon for a simple will would be available.

 
     

 

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