90-F-122 - Vacated*


*Vacated by the Board of Professional Responsibility on September 11, 2015 due to changes in the law or rules.

Formal Ethics Opinion 90-F-122

Inquiry is made concerning the propriety of lawyers participating in a lawyer referral service promoted and operated by a private company.

The Personal Injury Trial Lawyers Association, also known as PITLA, U.S.A., Inc. (PITLA) is a private company which markets a lawyer referral service structured for personal injury lawyers. PITLA solicits a limited number of lawyers to pay position expenses and enrollment, production and advertising fees in exchange for referral of legal consumers who telephone their central answering service as a result of television advertising.

The advertising is designed to generate a substantial volume of screened personal injury referrals for the lawyer-members. PITLA maintains nationwide operators on a 24 hour, 7 day a week basis to screen the calls and then relay the calls to a PITLA referral assistant. The referral department then determines whether the referrals are bonafide; considering such factors as whether there has been an injury due to negligence, whether there is insurance coverage, and whether there is attorney involvement. The referral department then refers the calls to lawyer-members on a rotation basis. Lawyer-members may acquire as many rotation slots or positions as they desire by paying a fixed fee for each slot or position. The more rotation positions purchased, the greater the opportunity for referrals. Participation is limited by market size. Potential consumers are unable to obtain the names ofthe lawyer-members.

Disciplinary Rule 2-103(D)(3) of the Code of Professional Responsibility states that a lawyer may participate in "a lawyer referral service operated, sponsored, or approved by a bar association."

PITLA, U.S.A., Inc. (PITLA) is a lawyer referral service. It is not operated, sponsored or approved by a bar association. It is improper for lawyers to participate in the lawyer referral service promoted and operated by PITLA.

This 9th day of March, 1990.


/s/ Thomas H. Rainey
/s/ W. J. Michael Cody
/s/ Walker T. Tipton