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Ethics Opinion

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CI-837

December 20, 1982

SYLLABUS

    It is ethical to advertise by direct mail and likewise a lawyer may offer a lower hourly rate to members of certain groups, such as retired persons or magazine subscribers.

    References: CI-688, CI-704, CI-485; C-218.

TEXT

It is ethical to advertise by direct mail. CI-688, CI-704. It is ethical to send a direct mail advertisement to a particular demographically identifiable group, i.e., persons with income in excess of $50,000 or persons on the mailing list of "XYZ Magazine" in a particular zip code area.

However, as computer retrieval of names and addresses becomes increasingly sophisticated, it is important that lawyers exercise discretion in the use of such specialized mailing lists so as to avoid a direct mail solicitation that is designed to solicit the recipient to become a client in a certain instance of litigation. For example, a direct mailing to those on the mailing list of Diabetic Magazine would be permissible, unless the mailing were concerned with a solicitation to join in a class action lawsuit against a syringe manufacturer. As was opined in C-218:

    "The distinction to be drawn between permissible public communication and improper solicitation does not lie in the mode of communication, but in its content. General communications which tell the public about legal services available, which inform about fees and other costs and about the lawyer's qualifications, and which do not unduly prompt a response, constitute permissible advertising. Communications directed to targeted potential clients with an identified need for particular legal services, framed to elicit a direct response to the attorney-sender, constitute improper solicitation."

It is ethical to offer differing charges for legal services based upon the age of the recipient or any other definable criteria. For example, a lawyer can advertise that a lower rate will be charged retired persons than is charged to persons on a payroll. "A attorney has a constitutionally protected right to render any legal service he is competent to render at any price or without charge so long as he does not overreach." CI-485.

 
     

 

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