Free online legal forms fail Consumer Reports test — Calling all attorney guest bloggers

There’s big news about the September Consumer Reports magazine testing LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer and Nolo, and finding that they don’t match up to the services provided by a real lawyer. I’ve posted about the Consumer Reports Robo-Lawyer review on my Law/Marketing/Technology blog, and I think it will interest most attorneys and legal marketers. [Read more…]

New ABA ethics rules target attorney marketing on Internet, social media (Part 3 in a series)

Online lead generation addressed in new rules and comments

Questions about the ethical propriety of lawyers paying non-lawyers for online leads hit the headlines in April, 2009, when a Connecticut lawyer filed a complaint in 42 states against Total Attorneys, which sold bankruptcy leads to lawyers.

Want to buy high-quality client leads that comply with ethics rules? Email Michael J. Evans at mjevans@mjevans.com.

The argument against the practice was that it allegedly violated Rule 7.2(b) of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. That’s the rule that forbids lawyers from giving anything of value for recommending his or her services, with limited exceptions (i.e., permissible advertising). Here’s the language of 7.2(b) in 2009:

(b) A lawyer shall not give anything of value for the recommendation of the lawyer’sservices except that the lawyer may:
(1) pay the reasonable costs of advertisements or communications permitted by this Rule;
(2) pay the usual charges of a legal service plan or a not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service. A qualified lawyer referral service is a lawyer referral service that has been approved by an appropriate regulatory authority;
(3) pay for a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.17;
(4) refer clients to another lawyer or a nonlawyer professional pursuant to an agreement not otherwise prohibited under these rules that provides for the other person to refer clients or customers to the lawyer, if
(i) the reciprocal referral agreement is not exclusive, and
(ii) the client is informed of the existence and nature of the agreement.

Over the course of several months, Total Attorneys won every decision in a series of states. The remaining complaints were apparently dismissed without published opinions. The defeat of the complaints against Total Attorneys seemingly settled the issue of the legality of lawyers paying for online leads, without the ethics rules actually speaking to the issue. [Read more…]