The Florida Bar
February 8, 1977
A bar association lawyer referral committee may distribute in local hospitals and other appropriate public locations a brochure describing the association's lawyer referral service.

Canons: 27, Canons of Professional Ethics
CPR: Canon 2; EC 2-1; EC 2-15; DR 2-103(1)(3)
Opinions: 64-32, ABA Formal 121, 179, 205, 227 and ABA Informal 846
Case: Jacksonville Bar Association v. Wilson , 102 So.2d 292 (1958)
Integration Rule: Art. XIV; Bylaws Art. XV

Vice Chairman Lehan stated the opinion of the committee:

A bar association lawyer referral committee has inquired whether it may, in order to make referral services more widely known to the public, distribute in local hospitals a brochure describing the lawyer referral service operated by the bar association.

This Committee answers the inquiry in the affirmative and would also add that dissemination of the brochure to the general public at appropriate locations in addition to hospitals would be appropriate.

Approved lawyer referral services are specifically authorized as provided in Article XIV of the Integration Rule and in Article XV of the By-Laws under the Integration Rule, and by DR 2-103(1)(3). EC 2-15 encourages the use of such services and lawyers' support thereof. EC 2-1 specifically recognizes an important function of the legal profession as including "to educate laymen to recognize their legal problems, to facilitate the process of intelligent selection of lawyers, and to assist in making legal services fully available."

ABA Formal Opinion 227, issued under the former Canons of Professional Ethics, is in point. That opinion finds that former Canon 27, as it applies to bar associations, does not prohibit the employment of advertising facilities by an organized Bar association to acquaint the lay public with the desirability of securing legal services promptly when a legal problem arises and to apprise the public of a lawyer's reference service, the plan under which it operates, and the availability of the service.

Likewise, Canon 2 of the Code of Professional Responsibility does not prohibit such employment by bar associations of such advertising facilities.

This Committee adopts general guidelines laid out in Formal Opinion 227 as to advertising of a lawyer referral service, to-wit:

First, it should be carried on by the organized bar in order that any semblance of personal solicitation will be avoided.

Second, that the purpose is to give the layman beneficial information, to enable lawyers as a whole to render a better professional service, to promote order in society, to prevent controversy and litigation and to enhance the public esteem of the legal profession, the judicial process and the judicial establishments, should be made plain.

Third, it must in fact be motivated by a desire to benefit the lay public and carried out in such a way as to avoid the impression that it is actuated by selfish desire to increase professional employment; and any plan, however well intended, that on trial fails to convince the lay public that the purpose is to benefit the layman and not to promote professional employment should be promptly abandoned.

Fourth, it should be carried on in a manner in keeping with the dignity and traditions of the profession.

See also, ABA Formal Opinions 205, 121 and 179, and ABA Informal Opinion 846. In addition, see this Committee's Opinion 64-32 relating to distribution of "Have You Made A Will?" pamphlets.

In Jacksonville Bar Association v. Wilson , 102 So.2d 292 (1958), the Florida Supreme Court specifically approved the use of advertising by a local bar association to promote public awareness of a lawyer's referral service.

With the inquiry there is enclosed copy of a pamphlet used by a local bar association in another state to publicize the services available through its lawyer referral service. The inquiry is not clear as to whether it requests specific approval by this Committee of the literal wording of that pamphlet. Suffice it to say for present purposes that any such brochure must not be inconsistent with the foregoing guidelines. If a particular question should be raised as to whether a particular portion of any such brochure is within those guidelines or is otherwise in accord with the CPR, this Committee would then consider undertaking a response in that respect.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]