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2015 Formal Ethics Opinion 3: Offering Prospective Client a Computer Tablet in Direct Mail Solicitation

Photo Courtesy of the North Carolina State Bar

View the Formal Ethics Opinion in Full Here

The Formal Ethics Opinion 2015 FEO 3 rules that a lawyer may not offer a computer tablet to a prospective client in a direct mail solicitation letter.  A lawyer is not permitted to make false or misleading statements or communications about him or his services as per Rule 7.1.

In the instance with the computer tablet, even with a disclaimer stating that the tablet is on loan and must be returned at the conclusion of the representation, the sending this solicitation through direct mail is not permissible.  A lawyer is prohibited form engaging in in-person, live, or telephonic solicitation of prospective clients with whom he has no prior professional relationship and as such, under Rule 7.3, he may not use direct mail solicitation to induce a prospective client to call the office, either.

If the direct mail solicitation is sent to prospective clients known to be in need of legal services, no merchandise is offered, but once hired, the lawyer offers temporary use of a computer tablet, such conduct might be permissible.  An attorney, under Rule 1.8(e) cannot provide financial assistance to a client in connection with pending or contemplated litigation unless the lawyer advances court costs or expenses of litigation.  A lawyer may loan a client a tablet if it is necessary to communicate with the lawyer or for collection of evidence, but it may not be a quid pro quo for hiring the lawyer.  The client must understand it is not a gift, but a loan.

Regan Gatlin, Ethics Editor
About Regan Gatlin, Ethics Editor (42 Articles)
Regan Gatlin is a 2016 graduate and served as the Ethics Editor for the Campbell Law Observer for the 2015-2016 academic year. Regan graduated from North Carolina State University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Sociology. Regan has previously clerked for the Insurance Section of the North Carolina Department of Justice, The General Counsel of The Select Group, and Safran Law Offices. During her experiences clerking, she gained civil litigation and research experience in the areas of insurance, construction law, labor and employment, and compliance. She also competed on a Campbell Law Trial Team in the Buffalo-Niagara Mock Trial Competition and the American Association for Justice (AAJ) Mock Trial Competition. Regan is from Smithfield, North Carolina.
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