Find-a-Lawyer Ethics FAQ
The following Q&A addresses frequent questions about lawyers’ ethical duties when using Find-a-Lawyer. You may encounter situations that are not addressed in this FAQ. If that happens, please contact the State Bar Ethics Hotline (602.340.7284) for free, confidential ethics advice regarding your specific question or concern.
Q: Is it ethical for me to pay for a premium membership in Find-a-Lawyer?
A: Yes. Ethical Rule (ER) 7.2(b) permits a lawyer to pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit lawyer referral service. Find-a-Lawyer is a program of the State Bar of Arizona, a nonprofit organization, and the SBA operates Find-a-Lawyer as a not-for-profit service.
Q: Are there any ethical restrictions on what I can place in my expanded profile?
A: The information you provide in your expanded profile must comply with rules related to lawyer advertising (ERs 7.1-7.5), such as prohibitions on false or misleading statements and restrictions on stating or implying specialization in a particular area of law. Other ethical rules may apply, depending on the content of your expanded profile. Please contact the Ethics Hotline with any specific questions.
Q: If I respond to an email I receive from a potential client through Find-a-Lawyer, am I engaging in solicitation?
A: No. A solicitation is a targeted communication, initiated by the lawyer, that is directed to a specific person and that offers to provide legal services (ER 7.3, Comment 1). Responding to a consumer’s request for information, initiated by the consumer, would typically not be considered a solicitation.
Here’s how Find-a-Lawyer works:
- From the consumer’s perspective: The consumer initiates the request for legal information, advice, or services by filling out the online request form, with the expectation that this will generate responses from lawyers.
- From the lawyer’s perspective: The lawyer does not initiate the communication; rather, the lawyer responds to the consumer’s request.
Thus, your response to a request for information sent through Find-A-Lawyer would not be a solicitation as defined in the ethical rules. However, as discussed above, your communications with consumers about your legal services are subject to ethical rules pertaining to advertising.
Q: If I email a potential client after receiving their request through Find-a-Lawyer, do I have to label the email “Advertising Material”?
A: No. This labeling requirement applies only to written solicitations, paper or electronic. As explained above, responding to a consumer’s request for information through Find-a-Lawyer is not a solicitation.
Q: Am I obligated to keep information confidential that I receive from the requests sent to me by Find-a-Lawyer?
A: Consumers who submit requests through Find-a-Lawyer are directed to state their legal problems in a general manner without identifying themselves, other parties, or witnesses. Thus, the initial requests that you receive should not contain confidential information. Once you begin communicating with the consumer, however, the ethical rules pertaining to the lawyer-client relationship will apply, including rules pertaining to prospective clients, confidentiality, and conflicts of interest. If you are concerned about your obligations with regard to a specific situation or potential client, please contact the State Bar’s Ethics Hotline.
Q: How can I run a conflicts check if the potential client’s identity is not disclosed by Find-a-Lawyer?
A: Simply reviewing consumers’ anonymous postings does not trigger an ethical obligation toward those consumers. However, once you begin communicating directly with the consumer, you can obtain the consumer’s identity and your ethical duties pertaining to prospective clients will apply—including screening for conflicts.
Q: Does the State Bar provide professional liability insurance for the cases referred to attorneys for pro bono representation?
A: No. The SBA/Find-a-Lawyer is not a law firm or legal services organization. Find-a-Lawyer is a platform for connecting potential clients with lawyers. Once a lawyer undertakes representation of a client, whether for a fee or pro bono, the lawyer assumes all responsibilities regarding the lawyer-client relationship.