Attorney marketing on Groupon: conflicting decisions leave lawyers in some state with no guidance
One issue that perfectly displays the ethical uncertainty that exists in the world of online attorney marketing is the current Groupon situation.
New York says its permissible, with caveats. North Carolina and South Carolina have said it’s ethically permissible. Alabama has issued a more recent decision saying it’s impermissible. Lawyers in other states are left in limbo.
Attorney marketing rules aren’t a lot clearer after recent changes made to ABA Model Rules
This is a perfect example of the reason the Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services wrote a letter to the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 recommended eliminating Rule 7.2 (Advertising).
We, as lawyer, should really be asking whether it’s a worthwhile expenditure of legal resources to argue in state after state whether attorneys may advertise on Groupon.
Situations such as this sometimes help me understand why so many people think that lawyers can’t agree on anything, always look for loopholes, nitpick over technicalities. I wonder how many billable hours have been so far on the Groupon issue, and how many more will be spent before it settles down. Is the ethics of attorney advertising on Groupon really that big of a deal? [Forgive me for “editorializing.”]
Although I’ve been heavily engaged in online attorney marketing for 12 years without having ever had a complaint filed against me, I’ve spent a huge amount of time researching ethics rules, but often being left to guess what was ethical and what wasn’t.
Mass tort defense lawyers might think it’s a good thing for a mass tort plaintiffs’ lawyer to be spending hours performing ethics research instead of performing more productive work, but from my point-of-view, all those hours have taken away from my real mission, which is making it easy for injured clients, wherever they live, to connect with great trial lawyers.
Even though I realize the need for some regulation of attorney advertising on the Internet, I’m afraid the recently amended ABA Rules targeting online legal marketing aren’t the solution, and leave a lot of questions unanswered. (See my recent series on ABA changes to attorney advertising rules. I discussed in a recent series about ABA model ethics rules changes to attorney aren’t much of an improvement.
So if you want to use Groupon for attorney marketing and you live in a state with no ruling on the subject, you may want to request an advisory opinion on the ethics of using Groupon for attorney marketing before you use the popular service.
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