The Virginia Bar’s Campaign Against 3rd Party Websites

Last year, I brought arguments against a proposed Virginia bar rule that would restrict the participation of lawyers in 3rd party lawyer referral websites. LEO 1851 was proposed to restrict lawyers from registering with websites that allow a client to enter their information and have it forwarded to the participating lawyers in their geographical area. The lawyer can then contact the client and discuss their services.

LEO 1851 claims that this practice is a violation of standing bar rules that prevent a lawyer from "giving something of value to a person or organization in exchange for recommending employment." This is misconstruing the fact that while the lawyers do have to pay to be listed on these types of 3rd party sites, the site is only acting as a medium between client and lawyer.

When a client puts their information into one of these websites, they are effectively saying they are interested in being contacted by lawyers relevant to their case. They are requesting contact, they are not asking the website for a recommendation, only information from their potential lawyers. There is no endorsement coming from the website, the client is free to accept or deny all contacts that come from their inquiry.

You can read my letter to the executive director of the Virginia State Bar with my full opinion on the absurdity of the matter. Once you've seen how out-of-touch some bar rules are, read my article on marketing ethics and working with bar rules

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