Summary of Facts Provided
A marketing service publishes periodic newsletters and arranges meetings attended by members of business groups. An attorney may join the service by paying a flat annual fee and may thereafter include articles in the newsletter under his or her by-line (including his or her address and phone number) and attend the meetings to speak on areas of topical interest. In addition, the service places paid ads in various bar and business related publications and refers those who respond to the ads to its member attorneys.
Issues and Conclusions
Does Colorado Rule 7.2 prohibit an attorney from paying the fee charged by the marketing service?
Because the marketing service is a for-profit organization, payment of the fee by an attorney violates Colorado Rule 7.2(c). That Rule prohibits attorneys from:
"...giving anything of value to a person for recommending [their] services, except that [they] may pay the reasonable cost of advertisements or communications permitted by [Rule 7.2] and may pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit lawyer referral service or other legal service organization."
The comment to the Rule affirms the general prohibition against paying another for "channeling professional work", and recognizes exceptions only when the "other" is a "legal aid agency or prepaid legal services plan" or a "not-for-profit lawyer referral program." The marketing service is not such a plan or program. As discussed in the Ethics Committee's Formal Opinion 83 (19 Colo. Law. 25 (Jan. 1990)); (addendum
22 Colo. Law. 2235 (Oct. 1993)), it is a "group advertising" mechanism which functions as a for-profit referral service. Payment of costs or charges to such a service is prohibited by Colorado Rule 7.2(c). Payment also is prohibited by Colorado Rule 1.5(e) which prohibits attorneys from paying referral fees.