FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
August 1, 1988
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
Ethical defects exist in a law firm’s proposal to form a corporation having several store-front
offices to invite inquiries from the public about legal problems and refer all such inquirers to that law
Note: Effective July 1, 1996, Rule 4-8.6 of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar was amended to
permit Florida lawyers to practice law in the form of professional limited liability companies or
registered limited liability partnerships “organized or qualified under applicable law.”
Amendments to Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, 677 So.2d 272 (Fla. 1996). See also, Chapters
621 and 622, Florida Statutes.
4-7.6 [See current 4-7.22]
F.S. Ch. 621
The inquiring attorney is a partner in a two-attorney law firm. He requests an opinion
concerning the ethical propriety of the following proposal.
The inquirer and his partner are considering forming a corporation whose title would not
include the attorneys’ names but would instead have a “law related” name such as “Legal Hotline,
Inc.” The two attorneys would be the sole shareholders and directors of the corporation.
The corporation would open small offices at various locations, such as shopping centers and
flea markets. These offices would bear the corporation’s name, rather than the law firm’s name, and
would be staffed by a nonlawyer employee of the corporation. The employee would not provide legal
advice. Upon being approached by a person seeking legal advice or information, the employee would
make an appointment for that person to see one of the attorneys at the law firm’s office. The inquiring
attorney states that, in the event there was sufficient traffic at a specific corporation office, an attorney
“could be available periodically” at that office.
Several problems are presented by the attorney’s proposal. The proposed corporation would be,
in essence, not a law office but a type of referral service. Unlike the typical lawyer referral service,
however, referrals would be made only to the inquiring attorney’s law firm. Because the proposed
corporation would be operating as a lawyer referral service, the inquiring attorney and his partner
could not ethically accept referrals from the corporation unless the requirements of Rule 4-7.6, Rules
Regulating The Florida Bar, are satisfied. [See current Rule 4-7.22].
Another problem lies in the corporation’s name. The name “Legal Hotline, Inc.,” for example,
must be considered misleading because it implies that the corporation can provide legal information
rather than merely a referral to an attorney’s office.
Finally, the inquiring attorney should be aware that Florida attorneys are not permitted to
practice law through a corporate entity other than a professional corporation or professional association
organized pursuant to Florida Statutes Chapter 621. Therefore, it would be impermissible to have an
attorney providing legal advice or legal services through the proposed corporation.