The Florida Bar

Florida Bar News

Firms may offer benefits to existing clients, but may not use incentives to solicit clients

Regular News

Firms may offer benefits to existing clients, but may not use incentives to solicit clients

A law firm can pay a membership fee for clients to a company offering discounts on various goods and services, but can’t use that incentive to attract new clients or get potential clients to view its advertising.

Sammy Cacciatore The Bar’s Standing Committee on Advertising passed out that advice in response to lawyers who had made inquiries through the Bar’s Ethics Hotline.

Ethics and Advertising Counsel Elizabeth Tarbert said the inquiries involved a company, Brandply, which has approached law firms about providing a benefit to clients. Brandply offers discounts on various goods and services to its members and markets itself as a benefit that businesses and firms can offer to their customers.

As explained to the Bar, law firms would pay a one-time fee to Brandply to be able to offer its discounts to clients, and then an additional fee for each client who joins the service through the law firm.

The firm would provide a website and code to the client to access Brandply discounts, and that site would include a logo and perhaps contact information about the firm.

Tarbert noted Bar advertising rules prevent lawyers from offering a benefit or fiscal incentive for someone to become a client or to view a lawyer’s or law firm’s advertising. But in this case, she said, the benefit is being offered to existing clients. While the rules prohibit incentives to contact a law firm or view its website, “they already are clients and presumably then know how to contact the law firm already,” she said.

Committee members said they would have reservations if the Brandply memberships were offered to potential clients or as a way to get former clients to re-engage the firm but not as a perk for existing clients.

“With that limitation, it makes sense to me,” said committee Chair Sammy Cacciatore. “They’re not offering an economic incentive to employ a lawyer or to review a lawyer’s advertising.”

Committee members did express reservations about potential ethical issues, although they noted those are outside the committee’s jurisdiction. Those included offering the discounts to litigation clients (Bar rules prohibit offering financial assistance to litigation clients) and potential conflicts if a company offering discounts through Brandply is the opposing party to the client in the matter for which he or she hired the attorney. Committee members also expressed concerns regarding a lawyer or law firm providing its imprimatur to particular companies, products, or services.

News in Photos