According to this article the Avvo lawyer referral program was ruled unethical.
the Avvo website offers an impermissible referral service, in violation of Rules of Professional Conduct 7.2(c) and 7.3(d), as well as improper fee sharing with a nonlawyer in violation of Rule of Professional Conduct 5.4(a).
Joe Pastorek seems to agree:
As old Professor Rault used to teach at Loyola–usually referring to Pastorek v. Lanier Systems Co., 249 So.2d 224 (La.App. 4th Cir. 1971)–“If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a cow have? Four! The tail is still a tail, no matter what you call it!”
Whether you use language to disguise something or not, it’s legally still what it is. I guess “It is what it is” is a legal truism.
I always wondered if this was the basis of Justice Roberts’ thinking in the ACA “it’s really a tax” holding.
However, as Ernie Svenson points out:
Whenever I read about these kinds of turf war battles between the regulatory protectionists and the new innovators of legal services I’m more interested is someone (Bueller? Anyone?) explaining: (1) what harm the old rule was designed to protect against (2) is that harm still a real problem, and/or as much of a problem, and (3) does the new innovator’s system cause harm? [emphasis mine]
It’s astonishing that we lawyers never feel any obligation to revisit the reasons for a long-standing prohibition. We keep our blinders on and focus total analysis on the letter of the law.
So how exactly is Avvo’s scheme (assuming as we lawyers in Louisisna apparently must) causing some grevious public harm?
BTW, I was shocked to learn a year ago that in Florida local bar associations make referrals to attorneys and get a fee for doing so.
I was never able to get anyone to explain to me how that’s okay.
But hey maybe the reasons for laws that were passed long ago don’t matter. Our elders were wise so we should just “shut up and do what we’re told”
So my questions are:
- What harm the old rule was designed to protect against?
- Is that harm still a real problem, and/or as much of a problem?
- Does the new innovator’s system cause harm?