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March 1, 2014
Proposed board actions

Pursuant to Standing Board Policy 1.60, the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar publishes this notice of intent to consider the following item at its March 28, 2014 meeting in Palm Coast. This is governed by Rule 1-12.1, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. If approved by the board, these amendments must still be formally filed with the Supreme Court of Florida, with further notice and opportunity to be heard, before they are officially approved and become effective. Additionally, non-substantive edits to conform to the Supreme Court style guide are not noted in the summary. To receive a full copy of the text of any of this proposed amendment, email jgreen@flabar.org or call Janellen Green at (850) 561-5751. Reference any requested proposal by its title or item number and date of this publication.

RULES REGULATING THE FLORIDA BAR

Chapter 4 Rules of Professional Conduct

RULE 4-7.22 LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICES

Within subdivision (a), adds new subdivision (4) that prohibits lawyers from accepting referrals from a lawyer referral service that directly or indirectly requires the participating lawyers to refer clients to another person or entity for other services or places economic pressure on the lawyer to make such referrals and renumbers other subdivisions accordingly. Within subdivisions (a)(5) and (a)(6) [new subdivisions (a)(6) and (a)(7)], adds “at its headquarters address in Tallahassee” after “The Florida Bar”. Within subdivision (a)(7) [new subdivision (a)(8)] adds that a lawyer who has notified the bar of a relationship that the lawyer is accepting referrals may not accept referrals from a service who has not responded to bar inquiries only after being notified by the bar of the service’s failure to respond. Within subdivision (a)(8) (new subdivision (a)(9), changes “subject” to “approved by The Florida Bar pursuant.” Within subdivision (a)(10) [new subdivision (a)(11)] adds “and other communications to consumers.” Adds new subdivision (a)(13) prohibiting lawyers from accepting referrals from a lawyer referral service unless the service discloses to the consumer at the time the referral is made the location of the lawyer’s bona fide office by city, town or county. Adds new subdivision (a)(14) prohibiting lawyers from accepting referrals from a lawyer referral service unless the service uses a name that is not misleading to the public and does not use any name that would lead consumers to believe the service directly provides legal services. Within subdivision (b), exempts Florida Bar approved lawyer referral services under chapter 8 from lawyer’s responsibility for advertising by the lawyer referral service. Adds new subdivision (b)(2) requiring lawyers to notify the bar within 15 days of agreeing to accept referrals from a lawyer referral services, except for Florida Bar approved lawyer referral services under chapter 8. Adds new subdivision (b)(3) requiring lawyers to notify the bar within 15 days of terminating a relationship with a lawyer referral service, except for Florida Bar approved lawyer referral services under chapter 8. Adds new subdivision (b)(4) requiring lawyers to designate a lawyer in a law firm that is responsible for compliance with bar rules and for responding to bar inquiries regarding a lawyer referral service when the agreement is between the service and a law firm, except for Florida Bar approved lawyer referral services under chapter 8. Adds new subdivision (b)(5) requiring lawyers to pay an administrative fee to be set by the bar for administering the program and enforcing these rules except for Florida Bar approved lawyer referral services under chapter 8. Adds new subdivision (b)(6) prohibiting lawyers from making the initial contact in person, by telephone, telegraph, facsimile or any written communication that does not comply with the direct mail rules with a consumer after the referral is made. Adds new subdivision (b)(7) prohibiting a lawyer from referring clients to any person or entity in exchange for receiving referrals from the service. Adds new subdivision (b)(8) prohibiting lawyers from accepting referrals if the lawyer referral service interferes with the participating lawyer’s professional judgment, including if the lawyer referral service requires the lawyer to refer the lawyer’s clients to the lawyer referral service, an owner of the service, or an entity owned by the service or the service’s owner. Adds new subdivision (b)(9) prohibiting participating lawyers from referring clients to the lawyer referral service, an owner of the service, or an entity owned by the service or the service’s owner unless the requirements of rules 4-1.7 and 4-1.8 are met and the lawyer provides written disclosure to the client of the relationship and obtains the client’s informed consent, confirmed in writing. Adds new subdivision (b)(10) requiring lawyers to disclose in writing to clients at the outset of representation who are referred by a service that the lawyer received the referral and, if the lawyer paid the service for referrals, that the lawyer paid the service for referrals. Adds new subdivision (b)(11) prohibiting lawyers from charging referred clients any higher fee or cost than if no lawyer referral service were involved. Adds new commentary defining what constitutes an improper division of fees. Adds commentary explaining that lawyers may not charge referred clients a higher fee or cost to offset the lawyer’s cost of doing business with the lawyer referral service. Additional non-substantive changes are made for consistency and conformity with the Supreme Court of Florida style guide.

[Revised: 11-21-2014]