New York State Bar Association
Committee on Professional Ethics
Opinion 678 - 1/10/96 (42-95)
A lawyer may not participate
referral service that is not
DR 2-101, 2-103(C).
May a lawyer receive referrals from an agency that advertises the availability of
The inquirer proposes to participate in a divorce mediation referral service. The
service would use television and the Yellow Pages to advertise the availability of divorce
mediators. An "800" number would be provided and, based on the caller's geographic
location, the caller would be referred to a participating mediator. Mediators on the list,
including both lawyers and nonlawyers, would be co-shareholders in the service.
The threshold question is whether the proposed service constitutes a "referral
service" subject to DR 2-103(C) rather than "group advertising" subject to DR 2-101.
We believe that, as described, the service would constitute a referral service for the
reasons discussed in N.Y. State 597 (1989). In that opinion, we stated:
We believe that a program in which an advertising agent runs
generic ads for legal services and distributes prospective clients to
participating lawyers who have been assigned the exclusive right to cases
arising in particular geographic areas is more in the nature of a lawyer
referral service than advertising by an individual lawyer. When a
prospective client answers the advertisement, the purpose is to be given
the name of a lawyer, rather than to contact a particular lawyer.
Id. at 2-3. We distinguished group advertising, in which
the advertisement presents in a meaningful fashion the names of the
lawyers or law firms participating in the group advertisement, along with
their addresses and the geographical