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Rule comment proposed on lawyer networking opportunities

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Networking OpportunitiesLawyers should be able to exchange business cards or other contact information with potential clients at business-related events or on social media platforms, both of which are typically intended at least partially as networking opportunities.

With that in mind, the Board of Governors unanimously approved amending the comment to Bar Rule 4-7.18, which governs direct contact with prospective clients. The change had been endorsed by the Professional Ethics Committee and the Standing Committee on Advertising. The board acted at its January 31 meeting in Tallahassee.

Board member Tom Bopp, chair of the Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics, said the committee also unanimously endorsed the change.

The amendment, which still must go to the Supreme Court, would add this language to the rule comment:

“A lawyer may initiate the routine mutual exchange of contact information with prospective clients who are attending the same business or professional conference or meeting or business-related social gathering if the lawyer initiates no further discussion of a specific legal matter. Similarly, a lawyer may initiate the exchange of contact information and profiles via a specific social media platform that is established for the purpose of businesses and professionals exchanging this type of information if the lawyer initiates no discussion of specific legal matters. If a prospective client then initiates discussion of a specific legal matter, the lawyer should decline to discuss the matter at the initial contact and defer further discussion to a more appropriate location when the discussion would endanger a prospective client’s confidentiality. Lawyers should not interpret the above to allow a lawyer who knows a person has a specific legal problem to go to a specific conference or meeting where that prospective client will be in attendance in order to initiate the exchange of contact information. An accident scene, a hospital room of an injured person, or a doctor’s office are not business or professional conferences or meetings within the meaning of the discussion above.”

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