LegalMatch is deeply involved in building awareness and acceptance for Online Legal Matching in all fifty states. We are confident that our policies are within the guidelines and the ethical standards of all State Bar Associations across the United States. To date, the State Bars of California, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas as well as the Rhode Island Supreme Court Ethics Advisory Panel and the Supreme Court of Ohio have each announced favorable opinions on the use of LegalMatch within their jurisdictions. Even the FTC has released an opinion endorsing Online Legal Matching.
These precedent-setting decisions are now part of a growing trend among Bar Associations to look favorably upon Web-based online attorney-client matching. Numerous other State Bars have given informal approval to LegalMatch's model. To read more on the legal ethics and an attorney's use of LegalMatch, see our Ethics FAQ about Online Legal Matching.
LegalMatch is currently the first and only online attorney-client matching engine to be certified and licensed as a referral service under the California State Bar (CA Bar Certified Lawyer Referral Service #0140).
Under California State Bar guidelines, any online engine or service that sends potential clients to a lawyer must be classified as a lawyer referral service. Thus, they need to be certified by the California State Bar as a legitimate attorney referral service. As of now, LegalMatch is the only matching engine to be officially recognized and certified by the California State Bar.
Click here to learn more about lawyer referral services under the State Bar of California. LegalMatch is listed in every county in California.
A formal ethics opinion written by the Ethics Committee of the Colorado Bar Association discussed the applicability of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct to internet-based lawyer marketing.
The opinion considered the acceleration of technology and the proliferation of online attorney marketing programs, and provided guidance so attorneys can avail of newer channels. It also outlined criteria for evaluating internet marketing programs and other important related factors.
Read the entire opinion: Ethics Opinion 122: The Applicability of Colo. RPC 7.2 to Internet-Based Lawyer Marketing Program
The North Carolina State Bar, in its Formal Ethics Opinion of April 23, 2004, entitled, "Participation in On-Line Legal Matching Service" stated:
Opinion rules that a lawyer may participate in an on-line service that is similar to both a lawyer referral service and a legal directory provided there is no fee sharing with the service and all communications about the lawyer and the service are truthful.
According to the Supreme Court of Ohio, DR 2-103(E) states that “nothing in this rule [DR 2-103--the Referral and Recommendation Rule] prohibits a lawyer from accepting employment received in response to the lawyer’s own advertising, provided the advertising is in compliance with DR 2-101.
The Board in Opinion 2000-5 addressed an attorney's participation in an online attorney referral service. In Opinion 2000-5, the Board advised as follows:
If an online lawyer referral service is in compliance with DR 2-103 of the Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility and with the Lawyer Referral and Information Services Regulations, an attorney may pay the lawyer referral service a membership or registration fee as well as a fee calculated on a percentage of the legal fee earned. DR 2-103(C)(2)(a), DR 2-103(C)(1)(c), DR 2-103(B), and DR 3-102(A)(4) expressly permit both the payment of a membership or registration fee to a lawyer referral service as well as a fee calculated on a percentage of the legal fee earned. Before participating in a lawyer referral service, an Ohio attorney should determine whether the referral service meets the requirements of DR 2-103(C) (1)(a) through (j) and complies with the Lawyer Referral and Information Services Regulations.
Similarly, the Rhode Island Supreme Court Ethics Advisory Panel ruled in February 24, 2005 that the LegalMatch consumer/lawyer matching solution was an acceptable method for attorneys to utilize when seeking prospective clients. Read the entire opinion: Rhode Island Opinion (PDF)
The Opinion, No. 2005-01 request No. 885, and published in February 24, 2005, states:
The Panel concludes that (a) the annual membership fee represents the reasonable costs of advertising permitted by rule 7.2(c); (b) the arrangement is not a referral service;(c) payment of the annual fee to LegalMatch.com (LegalMatch) is not impermissible fee-sharing with a non-lawyer; and (d) a participating lawyer's reply to a consumer's request for legal services is not a prohibited solicitation. The Panel concludes that the proposed arrangement with LegalMatch.com is permissible under the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The South Carolina Bar advised in Opinion #00-10, that a lawyer could ethically participate in an Internet service that matched attorneys and clients when the service provider plays no role in the decision-making process of the recipient of the information provided. The Committee also found that reasonable payments to an Internet service based solely on the number of hits (and not based on whether the user ultimately becomes a client) are a way of determining advertising charges based on the effectiveness of the Internet advertisement and are permissible under Rule 7.2(c). South Carolina Ethics Advisory Opinion 01-03
The State Bar of Texas emitted an opinion in support of allowing Texas lawyers to participate in for-profit Internet websites that help match attorneys with people seeking legal representation. In opinion 573, released August 11, 2006, the Texas Ethics Committee, announced that it permits automated online legal matching services and that lawyers in Texas could ethically use this type of service. Texas Ethics Committee Opinion 573
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a comment before the Professional Ethics Committee of the State Bar of Texas concerning online attorney matching programs. In discussing online legal matching, the FTC staff stated: "Online legal matching services are a valuable option for Texans: they are likely to reduce consumers' costs for finding legal representation and have the potential to increase competition among attorneys. Further, we see no likely prospect of consumer harm that would justify the prohibition of online legal matching services in Texas.”
The FTC’s comment explained that the information provided by legal matching services would allow consumers to compare prices and quality among competing attorneys more cheaply than other methods of comparison. Comments on a Request for Ethics Opinion Regarding Online Attorney Matching Programs