Direct Contact With Prospective Clients And Recommendation Of Professional Employment
(a) A lawyer shall not, by in person communication, solicit employment as a private practitioner for the lawyer, a partner, or associate or any other lawyer affiliated with the lawyer or the firm from a non lawyer who has not sought advice regarding employment of a lawyer if:
(1) such communication contains a false, fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive statement or claim; or
(2) such communication has a substantial potential for or involves the use of coercion, duress, compulsion, intimidation, threats, unwarranted promises of benefits, over persuasion, overreaching, or vexatious or harassing conduct, taking into account the sophistication regarding legal matters, the physical, emotional or mental state of the person to whom the communication is directed and the circumstances in which the communication is made.
In person communication means face to face communication and telephonic communication.
- (b) A lawyer shall not assist in, cooperate with, or offer any qualified legal services plan or assist in or cooperate with any insurer providing legal services insurance as authorized by law to promote the use of services or those of the lawyer’s partner or associate or any other lawyer affiliated with the lawyer or the firm if that assistance, cooperation or offer, and the communications of the organization, are not in accordance with the standards of this Rule or Rule 7.1 and 7.2, as appropriate.
(c) A lawyer shall not assist a nonprofit organization which provides without charge legal services to others as a form of political or associational expression to promote the use of services or those of the lawyer’s partner or associate or any other lawyer affiliated with the lawyer or the firm if:
(1) the assistance or the communications of the organization on the lawyer’s behalf are false, fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive; or
(2) the assistance or the communications of the organization on the lawyer’s behalf involve the use of coercion, duress, compulsion, intimidation, threats, unwarranted promises of benefits, over persuasion, overreaching, or vexatious or harassing conduct, taking into account the physical, emotional or mental state of the person to whom the communication is directed and the circumstances in which the communication is made.
(d) A lawyer shall not compensate or give anything of value to a person or organization to recommend or secure employment by a client, or as a reward for having made a recommendation resulting in employment by a client, except that the lawyer may pay for public communications permitted by Rule 7.1 and 7.2 and the usual and reasonable fees or dues charged by a lawyer referral service and any qualified legal services plan or contract of legal services insurance as authorized by law, provided that such communications of the service or plan are in accordance with the standards of this Rule or Rule 7.1 and 7.2, as appropriate.
(e) A lawyer shall not accept employment when the lawyer knows or it is obvious that the person who seeks the lawyer’s services does so as a result of any person's conduct which is prohibited under this Rule.
(f) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Rule, a lawyer shall not initiate in person solicitation of professional employment for compensation in a personal injury or wrongful death claim of a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship. In person solicitation means face to face communication and telephone communication.
Direct Contact between Lawyers and Laypersons
 Whether a lawyer acts properly in volunteering advice to a layperson to seek legal services depends upon the circumstances. The giving of advice that one should take legal action could well be in fulfillment of the duty of the legal profession to assist laypersons in recognizing legal problems. The advice is proper whenever it is motivated by a desire to protect one who does not recognize that the person may have legal problems or who is ignorant of legal rights or obligations. It is improper if the advice is false, fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading. It is also improper, if given in person, when the advice is offered under circumstances which present a substantial potential for coercion, duress, or overreaching, which hold out unwarranted promises of benefits, taking into account the mental, physical, or emotional condition of the layperson and the circumstances surrounding the advice; or when the advice is given to a layperson who does not have a prior relationship to the lawyer, or who is relatively unsophisticated or inexperienced regarding legal services.
 In-person communications between a lawyer and a layperson regarding legal problems and the selection of a lawyer should likewise be motivated by a desire to inform the layperson of the availability of competent, independent legal counsel. Since in-person communication provides the opportunity for a two-way exchange of information regarding legal problems and lawyers, the lawyer should encourage questions and respond willingly, candidly, and truthfully. Only personal communications which are not false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading can provide useful information. However, the in-person character of such communications–in face-to-face settings and by telephone–can give rise to overreaching on the part of the lawyer or a feeling of being pressured for a response on the part of the layperson. Such communication is improper if it has the potential of involving coercion, duress, compulsion, intimidation, threats, unwarranted promises of benefits, over persuasion, overreaching, or vexatious or harassing conduct. In determining whether such a potential exists, a lawyer should be aware of whether the layperson\'s physical, mental or emotional state makes it possible for the person to make a reasoned judgment regarding the selection of a lawyer. The lawyer should also take into account such other factors as the age, education, and experience of the layperson and any preexisting relationships (family, friendship, business or other) between the lawyer and the layperson.
 In-person communications regarding legal problems and the selection of a lawyer are also improper if the recipient, by virtue of inexperience or lack of sophistication about legal services, is not capable of making an informed decision during the course of the conversation. The experience and sophistication of the layperson regarding legal services and the employment of a lawyer has an important bearing on whether a lawyer should volunteer through personal contact advice that the person should obtain the service of a lawyer. There is a greater danger of the lawyer\'s overreaching or the layperson\'s feeling pressured to employ the lawyer in cases of relatively inexperienced or unsophisticated persons than in other cases. For example, a young couple considering the purchase of their first home may not have the experience or sophistication to evaluate in a personal conversation the reasons they need a lawyer. On the other hand, a business executive may be quite familiar with and capable of evaluating in the same context the need and choice of a lawyer.
 Also, close friends, relatives, clients and former clients, and other persons who have established personal business or professional relationships with a lawyer or the lawyer’s firm are deemed to be informed about the need and services of the lawyer. It is therefore proper for the lawyer to volunteer advice to such persons concerning the engagement of a lawyer and then accept employment. Of course, the advice should not be false or misleading, and should be given in circumstances which do not have the potential for overreaching.
 The in-person solicitation of personal injury and wrongful death claims is fraught with special perils, as noted by the Supreme Court of the United States in Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Assn., 436 U.S. 447 (1978). The potential for overreaching is very great when a lawyer, a professional trained in the art of persuasion, personally solicits an injured or distressed layperson. The injured person\'s plight not only makes that person more vulnerable to influence, but is also more likely to make the overtures of an uninvited lawyer more obtrusive and distressing as an invasion of the individual\'s privacy. Accordingly, a different rule prevails. Lawyers may not solicit these types of claims by face-to-face or telephone communication, in the absence of a family or prior professional relationship, unless the contact is completely free of any motivation for financial gain.
 Selection of a lawyer by a layperson should be made on an informed basis. Advice and recommendation of third parties–relatives, friends, acquaintances, business associates, or other lawyers–and publicity and personal communications from lawyers may help to make this possible. A lawyer should not compensate another person for recommending him, for influencing a prospective client to employ him, or to encourage future recommendations except that the lawyer may pay for advertisements and other public communications, for participation in legal referral services, or for lawful prepaid legal services plans or legal services insurance. A lawyer may accept compensation from a nonprofit organization furnishing legal services without charge to laypersons in furtherance of political or associational expression.
 The legal profession has developed lawyer referral systems designed to aid individuals who are able to pay fees but need assistance in locating lawyers competent to handle their particular problems. Use of a lawyer referral system enables a layman to avoid an uninformed selection of a lawyer because such a system makes possible the employment of competent lawyers who have indicated an interest in the subject matter involved. Lawyers should support the principle of lawyer referral systems and should encourage the evolution of other ethical plans which aid in the selection of qualified counsel.
Virginia Code Comparison
Rule 7.3 is substantially similar to DR 2-103 of the Virginia Code.
As with Rule 7.1, and for similar reasons, the Committee believed it prudent simply to adopt, verbatim, DR 2-103 as Rule 7.3 and to incorporate select Ethical Considerations from Canon 2 as the Comments.
The amendments effective November 1, 2002, added “and 7.2” following “Rule 7.1” once in subparagraph (b) and twice in subparagraph (d).
Updated: January 3, 2013