LEO #1689 ATTORNEY PARTICIPATION IN REFERRAL SERVICE (LEGALFRIEND)
          THAT OFFERS LEGAL REFERRALS TO MEMBERS AT DISCOUNT

You have presented a hypothetical situation in which a legal
referral service proposes to contract with participating attorneys
who will agree to discount fees in anticipation of volume business. 
Services will be offered to nonlawyer subscribers through a
newsletter, which will include the areas of practice and fees of
participating attorneys as well as articles written by those
attorneys on legal subjects.  The newsletter would not hold the
attorneys out as specialists.  Subscribers would pay a monthly fee
to the referral service for that information.  Subscribers would
not call the referral service to obtain legal services; the
subscribers would contact the attorneys directly; thus, there would
be no "screening" of the subscribers calls by the referral service.

The referral service plans to have at least five attorneys listed
in each geographic area; however, there may be less than five
attorneys in each practice area.  The attorneys would have the
opportunity to review all advertising to be used by the referral
service.  The referral service will not set the lawyers' fees;
rather, the individual lawyers will do so.  However, the contract
between the referral service and the lawyers does state that the
lawyers will provide estimates of the total cost of individual
cases in advance whenever possible. The contract also prohibits the 
lawyers from joining any other lawyer referral service company
while affiliated with the service of this inquiry.

Under the facts you have presented, you have asked the committee to
opine as to (1) whether the referral service's listing of the
practice areas of the attorneys is an improper indication of
specialization; (2) whether there must be not only five attorneys
in each region but also five attorneys listed in each practice
area; (3) whether the advertisements submitted with the inquiry are
proper; and (4) whether the non-compete clause regarding other
referral services is an improper restraint on the contracting
attorneys. 

The appropriate and controlling disciplinary rules relative to your
inquiry are DR 2-101 which delineates requirements for lawyer
advertising; DR 2-102 which states the requirements for
letterheads, lawyer listings, etc.; DR 2-103 which establishes
limits on lawyer recommendations and solicitations; DR 2-104(A)
which prohibits a lawyer, outside exempt areas, from holding
himself out as a recognized or certified specialist; DR 2-106(A)
which prohibits a lawyer from entering an agreement restricting his
right to practice law after termination of the agreement (with an
exception for retirement arrangements); and DR 5-106 which
establishes specific requirements regarding a lawyer's need to
prevent third parties from influencing the attorney/client
relationship.

The committee responds to your inquiries relative to the facts you
have presented as follows:  
     1.   As to whether the referral service may properly list the
          areas of practice for each listed attorney, the
          determinative rule is DR 2-104(A), prohibiting attorneys
          from holding themselves out as a "recognized or certified"
          specialist, except in certain situations.  In the specific
          context of referral services, the committee opined that
          it is not improper for a lawyer referral service to list
          the areas of practice of the participating attorneys. 
          See, LEO 1029.  Accordingly, the committee opines that the
          listing of practice areas for the attorneys in your
          inquiry is not improper under DR 2-104(A).

     2.   As to whether there must be a particular number, such as
          five, of attorneys in each practice area participating in
          this referral service, the composition of listed attorneys
          for this service must not be such that the arrangement
          would deceive the public in violation of DR 2-101, DR 2-
          102, or DR 2-103.  See, LEO 926.  Previously, the
          committee opined that two law partners advertising their
          firm's phone number as a referral service was improperly
          deceptive.  See, LEO 1029.  The committee has further
          opined that for a referral service not to be deceptive,
          it should have a minimum number of attorneys in each
          region, with a suggestion of five for that minimum.  See,
          LEOs 1348, 1543.  The facts of the inquiry do not include
          exact information as to the required number of attorneys
          per practice area, in each region. The committee therefore
          notes, generally, that for the lawyers participating in
          this service to avoid a Canon 2 violation, the actual
          configuration of attorneys must be such that subscribing
          members of the public are not deceived as to the
          availability of a variety of lawyers.

     3.   Copies of several specific advertisements were included
          with this inquiry.  The committee notes that review of
          specific advertisements is actually within the purview of
          the Committee on Lawyer Advertising and Solicitation
          (COLA).  Should you wish specific comment on the content
          of those advertisements, you should submit them to the
          COLA for review.  The committee does caution that any
          statements in the referral service's advertising which
          conflict with Canon 2 could trigger automatic violations
          for the participating attorneys.  Accordingly, it is
          crucial that each participating attorney examine all
          advertisements in advance to prevent the inclusion of
          statements that are false, fraudulent, misleading, or
          deceptive.

     4.   As to whether the non-compete clause of the
          attorney/referral service contract is improper, the
          committee notes that the contract provision restricts only
          the right of an attorney to join another referral service
          during the time such attorney is affiliated with this
          inquiry's referral service.  In contrast, DR 2-106(A)
          prohibits restrictions of an attorney's right to practice
          law after the termination of a relationship created by the
          agreement.  The committee opines that the restriction in
          your inquiry is not improper under this rule since it does
          not actually limit the right to practice law, nor does it
          extend beyond the termination of the attorney/referral
          service relationship.

[DRs 2-101, 2-102, 2-103, 2-104(A), 2-106(A), 5-106; LEOs 926,
1029, 1348, 1543]

Committee Opinion
December 9, 1996