Summer 2006 Attorney Newsletter
Welcome to the Summer 2006 issue of The Legal Chamber, the official LegalMatch Member Attorney newsletter. At LegalMatch, connecting the right attorney with the right client is our mission. Included in this issue is the recent Texas Bar opinion specifically allowing LegalMatch to operate in Texas, the Federal Trade Commission opinion specifically stating that the way LegalMatch operates is consistent with existing legal ethics rules, the predicted expansion of Online Legal Matching in 2007, and the Top Ten Jury Verdicts of 2005.

First, a bit of trivia... Supreme Court History
Which case declared the Court to be the supreme arbiter of the Constitution? (find the answer to this question at the end of this newsletter)

In this issue:
What you need to know:
Texas State Bar approves automated online legal matching services

The Professional Ethics Committee of the State Bar of Texas recently released Opinion 573 in support of permitting Texas lawyer participation in for-profit Internet websites that help match attorneys with people seeking legal representation.

An earlier opinion by the Texas Ethics Committee, issued in October 2005, might have been read to preclude any for-profit Internet legal services from operating in Texas. The Texas Ethics Committee has now made clear that its earlier opinion concerned only legal matching services that could exercise discretion in deciding which potential clients to match with which lawyers.

The Texas Ethics Committee declared that a legal matching service — such as LegalMatch — is permitted if it does not use discretion, but instead automates the process of matching potential clients to attorneys using geography and legal subject areas. Removing individual discretion removes ethical concerns that arise when non-lawyers "steer" or "run" cases to lawyers for profit. Instead of "steering" clients to lawyers, LegalMatch uses the Internet to help lawyers and clients find each other.


What you need to know:
FTC was asked by LegalMatch to voice their opinion on Online Legal Matching, and they have

The Federal Trade Commission recently released its position regarding the great potential of online legal matching services to benefit consumers seeking legal counsel. The FTC determined that online legal matching services have the potential to lower the costs of obtaining information about the price and quality of legal services.

In a seven-page letter dated May 26, 2006, from the FTC Offices of Policy Planning, Bureau of Competition, and Bureau of Economics, the committee wrote to the Professional Ethics Committee of the Texas State Bar giving their opinion on whether or not it is ethical for Texas attorneys to participate in online legal matching services. Bar Association Ethical Rule 7.03 prohibits lawyers from paying a non-lawyer to solicit clients, except for paying normal advertising fees. The question at hand was: Does Rule 7.03 also prohibit lawyers from participating in online legal matching services? The opinion of the FTC, supported by three different internal departments and agreed to by a unanimous vote of commission members, is "No, it does not."

For a detailed copy of the FTC's opinion letter regarding this matter (in Adobe pdf format), please visit the following URL:


What you need to know:
Online legal searches are expected to double by 2007, with more to follow

Legalmatch Marketing partnership with Google The manner in which attorneys locate and pre-screen qualified clients is undergoing a revolution as the legal services category continues to grow at a record pace. Currently, over $70 billion is spent annually in the U.S. by individual consumers on legal services, and that number is expected to reach $82.5 billion by 2008 (source: Euromonitor International). Driving the revolution in client acquisition is Online Legal Matching (OLM). Over 4 million consumers conduct online searches for legal services each month. By 2007, an increase to over 7 million searches per month is expected. ["The Internet and Daily Life," Pew Internet & American Life Project, Washington, D.C. August 11, 2004]

This is clear evidence that the legal industry will most likely follow the financial services, media & entertainment, telecommunication and travel industries, each of which have been revolutionized by the Internet. Consumers are embracing these new ways of conducting business as they prefer to make empowered and informed decisions, quickly and from the comfort and safety of their own homes; their search for a lawyer ought to be no different.

The revolution of client acquisition has made serving the interests of the legal consumer and the legal community simultaneously, a much simpler task. Both consumers and attorneys are now recognizing real advantages in non-traditional methods of locating one another, such as Online Legal Matching. OLM allows consumers to present their legal cases in a confidential manner to qualified, prescreened attorneys in their geographic location who, based on a consumer's specific needs, practice the required type of law.


What you need to know:
The top ten jury verdicts of 2005

from Lawyers USA, 41 West St., Boston, MA 02111

#10 — Family Wins $61.2M in Rollover Case
In the ninth loss for Ford Motor Company in Explorer model rollover cases, a Florida jury awarded $61.2 million to the parents of an 18-year-old boy who was killed in a 1997 accident.

#9 — Jet Pilot Wins $64 Million for Age Discrimination
In early December, a Los Angeles jury found that PrivatAir — an aviation company specializing in private airline services — wrongfully terminated Captain Doyle D. Baker on the basis of his age, defaming him in the process and causing extreme emotional distress.

#8 — $65 Million for Electrocuted Sixth-Grader
Three years after a jury acquitted a Florida company of criminal manslaughter charges, a civil jury hit the outdoor advertiser with a $65 million verdict for the electrocution of a sixth-grade boy.

#7 — $65.5M To Widow in Estate Planning Case
In February, a prominent Houston-based law firm and a Texas bank were slammed with a $65.5 million verdict in a complex estate planning case that involved major conflicts of interest.

#6 — Small Promoter Wins $90 Million against Giant
In a David and Goliath type tale, an Illinois jury awarded an events promoter $90 million — most of it in punitive damages — against one of the nation's largest entertainment promoters, Clear Channel Communications of Chicago.

#5 — Beer Vendor Held Liable in $135 Million
In the largest liquor liability verdict in the nation, a New Jersey jury last January found the beer concession at Giants Stadium in New York liable for a drunken football fan who caused a car crash that paralyzed a 2-year-old girl.

#4 — $164 Million Verdict (Slashed to $5 Million)
Moments before a Florida jury returned with its $164 million verdict last July, plaintiffs' attorney Arthur Tifford agreed to a high-low agreement that capped the defendant's liability at $5 million.

#3 — Texas Jury Awards $253 Million from Vioxx
Plaintiffs scored a major victory in the ongoing Vioxx litigation last August when a Texas jury awarded $253.1 million in the first trial.

#2 — Overdose Leads to $606 Million Verdict
In what may be one of the last massive medical malpractice verdicts in Texas, a state jury awarded $606 million — including a remarkable $600 million in punitive damages — to the family of an 82-year-old cancer patient who died after receiving an overdose of chemotherapy drugs.

#1 — Billionaire Investor Awarded $1.45 Billion
In 2005's largest verdict to an individual plaintiff, a Florida jury last May ordered Morgan Stanley to pay $1.45 billion to investor Ronald O. Perelman for defrauding him in the sale of his Coleman camping gear company.


Trivia Answer:
Which case declared the Court to be the supreme arbiter of the Constitution?

Marbury v. Madison (1803)
The Court ruled that it had the power to declare void a statute that it considered repugnant to the United States Constitution. Chief Justice John Marshall presided over the case, and used the case to legally establish the right of the judiciary — and in particular, the Supreme Court — to determine the constitutionality of the actions of coequal branches of government and thus laid the basis for the current power of the Supreme Court.

Look for more trivia and more LegalMatch news in the next issue of The Legal Chamber.

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