2015 Formal Ethics Opinion 7: Prior Business Relationships Permit In-Person Solicitation
View the Formal Ethics Opinion in Full Here.
The North Carolina State Bar received a request for an interpretation of Rule 7.3(a) in regards to prior professional relationships. Generally, Rules 7.3(a) states that lawyers are prohibited from soliciting professional employment from a potential client in-person, by live telephone, or through real-time electronic contact. However, Rule 7.3(a) contains several exceptions, including a prior professional relationship, which permits the lawyer to directly solicit legal employment in person.
This proposed opinion rules that a business relationship with health care professionals created by a lawyer, when in the lawyer previous worked as a health care consultant, satisfies the prior professional relationship exception under Rule 7.3(a). Since the reasoning behind the prohibition on in-person solicitation is to prevent undue influence, intimidation, and over-reaching by the lawyer, as mentioned in Comment 2 to Rule 7.3, the likelihood of a lawyer engaging in these abusive practices goes down when the lawyer has a prior professional relationship with the person being contacted.