Invitations to Law Firm's Hospitality Suite
Opinion rules that a law firm may invite existing clients to a social function hosted by the law firm prior to a bid letting for contracts. Opinion further rules that the law firm may host a social function for nonclients who attend the bid letting as long as the law firm does not solicit employment from nonclients.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation awards contracts on a monthly basis. Many contractors and subcontractors occupy rooms at the North Raleigh Hilton the evening prior to such letting.
Law Firm A is interested in hosting a hospitality suite at the North Raleigh Hilton the evening before such letting. Law Firm A wants to invite existing clients who may be in attendance as well as other contractors who are not existing clients.
Yes. The law firm may host a hospitality suite at the site of the bid letting for those persons or firms that are existing clients of the law firm. Rule 2.4 does not prohibit a lawyer's contact with existing clients.
May Law Firm A send an invitation to nonclient contractors it knows will be attending?
Yes. Law Firm A may send an invitation to nonclient contractors it knows will be attending the bid letting as long as Law Firm A does not solicit business from the nonclients who come to the hospitality suite. Rule 2.4(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits a lawyer's in-person or live telephone solicitation for professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship when a significant motive for the lawyer's doing so is the lawyer's pecuniary gain. Assuming that the hospitality suite function is a means of promoting good will, which could lead to employment of Law Firm A by the nonclients, Law Firm A may invite nonclient contractors. Again, members of Law Firm A must be very careful to avoid solicitation of professional employment from the nonclient contractors who come to the hospitality suite.