Sending Letters Soliciting Employment to Community Newcomers
Opinion rules that a law firm may not send letters recommending the services of the firm to persons or corporations that have indicated interest in locating in the community to the local Chamber of Commerce
Editor's Note: See Rule 7.3 of the Revised Rules and RPC 242. This opinion was decided prior to 1989 amendment to superseded (1985) Rule 2.4 permitting targeted direct mail advertising.
City C's Chamber of Commerce periodically makes available to its members a list of persons who have requested information from the Chamber concerning the business environment in City C and the county in which it is located. That list typically contains over 25 persons or corporations.
Law Firm F has been mailing a form letter to persons on that list. Using word processing, each letter has been addressed directly to the person or corporation whose name appears on the Chamber list as having made an inquiry.
The letter in question basically thanks the individual or corporation for his or its interest in the city and speaks favorably of the city's environment, attitude and circumstances for newcomers. The letter also indicates that Firm F has served the business community in City C for more than 50 years. It includes an indication of the types of legal services that Firm F provides. It also suggests that if the individual corporation decides to become a part of City C's business community, the addressee's decision may involve business and personal transactions in which legal advice will be needed. The letter then indicates that the members of Firm F would be pleased to assist the addressee with these and other legal needs.
May Firm F ethically send letters of the type described above to individuals or corporations whose names appear on the list of the Chamber of Commerce as having made inquiries about City C, with the individual person's or corporation's name as addressee?
No. Rule 2.4(b) prohibits lawyers from soliciting professional employment from prospective clients by any written form of communication, where a significant motive is the lawyer's financial gain, when there is no family or prior professional relationship. A limited, narrowly-construed exception authorizes written solicitations distributed generally to persons not known to need a particular kind of legal service. The letters here are not distributed generally within the meaning of the exception in Rule 2.4(b).