Ohio R. Prof'l. Cond. 7.3

As amended through August 24, 2021
Rule 7.3 - Solicitation of Clients
(a) A lawyer shall not by in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact solicit professional employment when a significant motive for the lawyer's doing so is the lawyer's pecuniary gain, unless either of the following applies:
(1) the person contacted is a lawyer;
(2) the person contacted has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.
(b) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment by written, recorded, or electronic communication or by in-person, telephone, or real-time electronic contact even when not otherwise prohibited by division (a), if either of the following applies:
(1) the person being solicited has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer;
(2) the solicitation involves coercion, duress, or harassment;
(3) the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the person to whom the communication is addressed is a minor or an incompetent or that the person's physical, emotional, or mental state makes it unlikely that the person could exercise reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer.
(c) Unless the recipient of the communication is a person specified in division (a)(1) or (2) of this rule, every written, recorded, or electronic communication from a lawyer soliciting professional employment from anyone whom the lawyer reasonably believes to be in need of legal services in a particular matter shall comply with all of the following:
(1) Disclose accurately and fully the manner in which the lawyer or lawfirm became aware of the identity and specific legal need of the addressee;
(2) Disclaim or refrain from expressing any predetermined evaluation of the merits of the addressee's case;
(3) Conspicuously include in its text and on the outside envelope, if any, and at the beginning and ending of any recorded or electronic communication the recital - "ADVERTISING MATERIAL" or "ADVERTISEMENT ONLY."
(d) Prior to making a communication soliciting professional employment pursuant to division (c) of this rule to a party who has been named as a defendant in a civil action, a lawyer or lawfirm shall verify that the party has been served with notice of the action filed against that party. Service shall be verified by consulting the docket of the court in which the action was filed to determine whether mail, personal, or residence service has been perfected or whether service by publication has been completed. Division (d) of this rule shall not apply to the solicitation of a debtor regarding representation of the debtor in a potential or actual bankruptcy action.
(e) If a communication soliciting professional employment from anyone is sent within thirty days of an accident or disaster that gives rise to a potential claim for personal injury or wrongful death, the following "Understanding Your Rights" shall be included with the communication.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR RIGHTS*

If you have been in an accident, or a family member has been injured or killed in a crash or some other incident, you have many important decisions to make. It is important for you to consider the following:

1. Make and keep records - If your situation involves a motor vehicle crash, regardless of who may be at fault, it is helpful to obtain a copy of the police report, learn the identity of any witnesses, and obtain photographs of the scene, vehicles, and any visible injuries. Keep copies of receipts of all your expenses and medical care related to the incident.
2. You do not have to sign anything - You may not want to give an interview or recorded statement without first consulting with an attorney, because the statement can be used against you. If you may be at fault or have been charged with a traffic or other offense, it may be advisable to consult an attorney right away. However, if you have insurance, your insurance policy probably requires you to cooperate with your insurance company and to provide a statement to the company. If you fail to cooperate with your insurance company, it may void your coverage.
3. Your interests versus interests of insurance company - Your interests and those of the other person's insurance company are in conflict. Your interests may also be in conflict with your own insurance company. Even if you are not sure who is at fault, you should contact your own insurance company and advise the company of the incident to protect your insurance coverage.
4. There is a time limit to file an insurance claim - Legal rights, including filing a lawsuit, are subject to time limits. You should ask what time limits apply to your claim. You may need to act immediately to protect your rights.
5. Get it in writing - You may want to request that any offer of settlement from anyone be put in writing, including a written explanation of the type of damages which they are willing to cover.
6. Legal assistance may be appropriate - You may consult with an attorney before you sign any document or release of claims. A release may cut off all future rights against others, obligate you to repay past medical bills or disability benefits, or jeopardize future benefits. If your interests conflict with your own insurance company, you always have the right to discuss the matter with an attorney of your choice, which may be at your own expense.
7. How to find an attorney - If you need professional advice about a legal problem but do not know an attorney, you may wish to check with relatives, friends, neighbors, your employer, or co-workers who may be able to recommend an attorney. Your local bar association may have a lawyer referral service that can be found in the Yellow Pages or on the Internet.
8. Check a lawyer's qualifications - Before hiring any lawyer, you have the right to know the lawyer's background, training, and experience in dealing with cases similar to yours.
9. How much will it cost? - In deciding whether to hire a particular lawyer, you should discuss, and the lawyer's written fee agreement should reflect:
a. How is the lawyer to be paid? If you already have a settlement offer, how will that affect a contingent fee arrangement?
b. How are the expenses involved in your case, such as telephone calls, deposition costs, and fees for expert witnesses, to be paid? Will these costs be advanced by the lawyer or charged to you as they are incurred? Since you are obligated to pay all expenses even if you lose your case, how will payment be arranged?
c. Who will handle your case? If the case goes to trial, who will be the trial attorney?

This information is not intended as a complete description of your legal rights, but as a checklist of some of the important issues you should consider.

*THE SUPREME COURT OF OHIO, WHICH GOVERNS THE CONDUCT OF LAWYERS IN THE STATE OF OHIO, NEITHER PROMOTES NOR PROHIBITS THE DIRECT SOLICITATION OF PERSONAL INJURY VICTIMS. THE COURT DOES REQUIRE THAT, IF SUCH A SOLICITATION IS MADE, IT MUST INCLUDE THE ABOVE DISCLOSURE.

(f) Notwithstanding the prohibitions in division (a) of this rule, a lawyer may participate with a prepaid or group legal service plan operated by an organization not owned or directed by the lawyer that uses in-person or telephone contact to solicit memberships or subscriptions for the plan from persons who are not known to need legal services in a particular matter covered by the plan.

Comment

[1] A solicitation is a communication initiated by the lawyer that is directed to a specific person and that offers to provide, or can reasonably be understood as offering to provide, legal services. In contrast, a lawyer's communication typically does not constitute a solicitation if it is (a) directed to the general public, such as through a billboard, an Internet-based advertisement, a web site, or a commercial, (b) in response to a request for information, or (c) automatically generated in response to Internet searches.
[2] There is a potential for abuse when a solicitation involves direct in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact by a lawyer with someone known to need legal services. These forms of contact subject the person to the private importuning of the trained advocate in a direct interpersonal encounter. The person, who may already feel overwhelmed by the circumstances giving rise to the need for legal services, may find it difficult fully to evaluate all available alternatives with reasoned judgment and appropriate self-interest in the face of the lawyer's presence and insistence upon being retained immediately. The situation is fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, and over-reaching.
[3] This potential for abuse inherent in direct in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic solicitation justifies its prohibition, particularly since a lawyer has alternative means of conveying necessary information to those who may be in need of legal services. Communications can be mailed or transmitted by email or other electronic means that do not involve real-time contact and do not violate other laws governing solicitations. These forms of communication make it possible for the public to be informed about the need for legal services, and about the qualifications of available lawyers and law firms, without subjecting the public to direct in-person, telephone, or real-time electronic persuasion that may overwhelm the person's judgment. In using any telephone or other electronic communication, a lawyer remains subject to all applicable state and federal telemarketing laws and regulations.
[4] The use of general advertising and written, recorded, or electronic communications to transmit information from lawyer to the public, rather than direct in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact, will help to ensure that the information flows cleanly as well as freely. The contents of advertisements and communications permitted under Rule 7.2 can be permanently recorded so that they cannot be disputed and may be shared with others who know the lawyer. This potential for informal review is itself likely to help guard against statements and claims that might constitute false and misleading communications, in violation of Rule 7.1. The contents of direct in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact can be disputed and may not be subject to third-party scrutiny. Consequently, they are much more likely to approach, and occasionally cross, the dividing line between accurate representations and those that are false and misleading.
[5] There is far less likelihood that a lawyer would engage in abusive practices against a former client, a person with whom the lawyer has close personal or family relationship, or in situations in which the lawyer is motivated by considerations other than the lawyer's pecuniary gain. Nor is there a serious potential for abuse when the person contacted is a lawyer. Consequently, the general prohibition in Rule 7.3(a) and the requirements of Rule 7.3(c) are not applicable in those situations. Also, division (a) is not intended to prohibit a lawyer from participating in constitutionally protected activities of public or charitable legal service organizations or bona fide political, social, civic, fraternal, employee, or trade organizations whose purposes include providing or recommending legal services to members or beneficiaries.
[6] Even permitted forms of solicitation can be abused. Thus, any solicitation that contains information that is false or misleading within the meaning of Rule 7.1, that involves coercion, duress, or harassment within the meaning of Rule 7.3(b)(2), or that involves contact with someone who has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer within the meaning of Rule 7.3(b)(1) is prohibited. Moreover, if after sending a letter or other communication as permitted by Rule 7.2 the lawyer receives no response, any further effort to communicate with the recipient may violate Rule 7.3(b).
[7] This rule is not intended to prohibit a lawyer from contacting representatives of organizations or groups that may be interested in establishing a group or prepaid legal plan for their members, insureds, beneficiaries, or other third parties for the purpose of informing such entities of the availability of and details concerning the plan or arrangement that the lawyer or lawyer's firm is willing to offer. This form of communication is not directed to people who are seeking legal services for themselves. Rather, it is usually addressed to an individual acting in a fiduciary capacity seeking a supplier of legal services for others who may, if they choose, become prospective clients of the lawyer. Under these circumstances, the activity that the lawyer undertakes in communicating with such representatives and the type of information transmitted to the individual are functionally similar to and serve the same purpose as advertising permitted under Rule 7.2.
[8] None of the requirements of Rule 7.3 applies to communications sent in response to requests from clients or others. General announcements by lawyers, including changes in personnel or office location, do not constitute communications soliciting professional employment from a person known to be in need of legal services within the meaning of this rule.
[8A] The use of written, recorded, and electronic communications to solicit persons who have suffered personal injuries or the loss of a loved one can potentially be offensive. Nonetheless, it is recognized that such communications assist potential clients in not only making a meaningful determination about representation, but also can aid potential clients in recognizing issues that may be foreign to them. Accordingly, the information contained in division (e) must be communicated when the solicitation occurs within thirty days of an accident or disaster that gives rise to a potential claim for personal injury or wrongful death.
[9] Division (f) of this rule permits a lawyer to participate with an organization that uses personal contact to solicit members for its group or prepaid legal service plan, provided that the personal contact is not undertaken by any lawyer who would be a provider of legal services through the plan. The organization must not be owned or directed, whether as manager or otherwise, by any lawyer or law firm that participates in the plan. For example, division (f) would not permit a lawyer to create an organization controlled directly or indirectly by the lawyer and use the organization for the in-person or telephone solicitation of legal employment of the lawyer through memberships in the plan or otherwise. The communication permitted by these organizations also must not be directed to a person known to need legal services in a particular matter, but is to be designed to inform potential plan members generally of another means of affordable legal services. Lawyers who participate in a legal service plan must reasonably ensure that the plan sponsors are in compliance with Rules 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3(b). See Rule 8.4(a).

Comparison to former Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility

Rule 7.3 embraces the provisions of DR 2-104(A), DR 2-101(F) and DR 2-101(H), with modifications.

At division (c), the rule broadens the types of communications that are permitted by authorizing the use of recorded telephone messages and electronic communication via the Internet. Further, in keeping with the new methods of communication that are authorized, the provisions of DR 2-101(F) regarding disclosures are incorporated and modified to apply to all forms of permissible direct solicitations.

The provisions of DR 2-101(F)(2) have been incorporated in division (c) and modified to reduce the micromanagement of lawyer contact, which previously had been the subject of abuse, by requiring that the disclaimers "ADVERTISEMENT ONLY" and "ADVERTISING MATERIAL" be "conspicuously" displayed. The requirements contained in DR 2-101(F)(2)(b) regarding disclaimers of prior acquaintance or contact with the addressee and avoidance of personalization have not been retained.

The provisions of DR 2-101(F)(4) [pre-service solicitation of defendants in civil actions] have been inserted as a new division (d), and the provisions of DR 2-101(H) [solicitation of accident or disaster victims] have been inserted as a new division (e).

Comparison to ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct

Rule 7.3 contains the following substantive changes to Model Rule 7.3:

* With the modifications discussed above, the requirements placed upon the lawyer involved in the direct solicitation of prospective clients are more stringent than the requirements contained in division (c) of the Model Rule. Because a lawyer is not likely to have actual knowledge [Rule 1.0(g) ] of a prospective client's need for legal services, the Model Rule standard contained in division (c) is changed to "* * * soliciting professional employment from a prospective client whom the lawyer reasonably believes to be in need of legal services * * *." See Rule 1.0(j).

* Division (d), regarding preservice solicitation of defendants in civil actions, has been inserted.

* Division (e), regarding direct solicitation requirements respecting solicitation of accident or disaster victims and their families, has been inserted.

Added to the rule is Comment [7A], which discusses the rationale for inclusion of the new division (e).

Ohio. R. Prof'l. Cond. 7.3