2006-F-152 - Lawyer Advertising Agency

FORMAL ETHICS OPINION 2006-F-152


Whether the activities of R. W. Lynch Co. (Injury Helpline) constitute the activities of an "intermediary organization" as defined in Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 44 and R. 8 (7.6).


R. W. Lynch Co. (Lynch) produces and places television commercials for attorneys who advertise jointly. The advertising program offered by Lynch operates as follows:


(1) Personal injury lawyers in a television market agree to participate in a joint
advertisement.

(2) Lynch produces television commercials that comply with the Tennessee
ethical rules on advertisements.

(3) The commercial identifies in print each advertising lawyer by name and
geographic area. Each geographic territory is exclusive to one attorney.

(4) Television viewers call the Injury Helpline 800 telephone number. The
answering service inquires only the caller's name, telephone number and
zip code.

(5) The caller information is forwarded to the lawyer whose geographic
territory includes that zip code. The operator has no discretion in
forwarding calls and performs no filtering function.

(6) The answering service does not screen calls or exercise judgment in any
manner and doesn't know what the person is calling about. The operator's
task is only ministerial in nature.

(7) Each lawyer pays a flat monthly fee for the advertisement, regardless of
the number of calls received. No fees are split between the advertising
lawyers and Lynch.

Lynch performs the same function performed by advertising agencies. The lawyers who advertise with Lynch are not part of any organization. Rather, they contract with Lynch for production and placement of joint advertisements. There is no attempt to match lawyer and potential client. Callers are not "customers", "members" or "beneficiaries" of Lynch or any organization. Callers do not pay anything to Lynch. No third parties are involved. Under the Lynch advertising program, the only parties involved are Lynch and the participating attorneys.

CONCLUSION

The activities of Lynch described herein do not constitute the activities of a "lawyer referral service" or a "lawyer-advertising cooperative --- the business or activities of which include the referral of its customers, members or beneficiaries to lawyers ---". The activities of Lynch do not constitute the activities of an "intermediary organization" as defined in Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 44 and Rule 8, RPC 7.6.


This 16th day of June , 2006.


ETHICS COMMITTEE:

Thomas S. Scott, Jr., Chair
C. Thomas Davenport, Jr.
W. Ferber Tracy
David L. Mason


APPROVED AND ADOPTED BY THE BOARD