Solicitation of Corporate Clients
Opinion rules that lawyers may not solicit corporate clients.
Attorney A would like to be able to contact an officer of a corporation, the managing or general partner of a partnership, or an executive officer of some other form of business entity or institution, the entity or institution being a prospective client, in person, by telephone or by mail, for purposes of informing the prospective client of the types of law practice in which the law firm of which the contacting lawyer is a member, engages. Attorney A would furnish information in verbal and printed form as to the professional personnel of the firm, their educational backgrounds, fields of practice and biographical data. Attorney A would also inform the prospective client of the fees and charges made by the law firm for legal services and express a desire on the part of the law firm to be considered for employment by the prospective client in connection with any legal matters requiring consultation or representation. It is assumed that Attorney A has no family or prior professional relationship with the officer, director or partner of the prospective client who is contacted, and no prior relationship with the client. A significant motive for the contact would be pecuniary gain, specifically obtaining representation of the prospective client. It is assumed that there would be no fraud, deceit or misrepresentation in connection with the contact or any communications made pursuant thereto. It is also assumed that Attorney A would not be aware of any specific matter of suit or proceeding by or against the prospective client and therefore would not be making the contact with view to obtaining representation in a particular matter; however, Attorney A would be contacting an entity which he knows or believes routinely employs counsel in the ordinary course of its business to perform a variety of legal services.
May Attorney A as an individual or on behalf of a law firm make the contacts or communications as proposed? If so, would he be able to do so under circumstances in which he is aware of a specific matter or suit or proceeding by or against the prospective client and makes the contact with a view to obtaining representation in that matter? Does it make any difference if he makes the contact with the view to obtaining representation in connection with specific types or kinds of matters of a specialized nature rather than a general representation?
No, Attorney A may not make such contacts under any of the circumstances outlined in the Inquiry. Rule 2.4 prohibits an attorney from soliciting employment from a prospective client with whom he has no prior relationship, whether by mail, in person, or otherwise, if a significant motive is the lawyer's pecuniary gain. There is an exception for general mailings or circulars distributed on a broad basis as such distributions are more in the nature of advertising. However, the contacts proposed by Attorney A are all ones to specific entities rather than general distribution of material. Rule 2.4 forbids the conduct proposed by Attorney A under any of the circumstances described.