ABA Cautions Lawyers on Prepaid Legal Services

by Michael P. Lewis on October 21, 2013

​Many businesses see the use of Groupon-type marketing websites as an effective way to attract new clients.  According to a recent ABA ethics opinion, however, lawyers who use these types of marketing strategies need to be aware of potential ethical issues.

​One of the primary problems with these arrangements is that they are prepaid, so lawyers do not have the opportunity to meet with a client before establishing the attorney-client relationship.  The opinion cautions that the “ad should explain that no client-lawyer relationship exists until a consultation takes place.”

Moreover, refund problems may arise when conflicts of interest arise or the purchaser does not use the coupon.  The opinion states that, if there is a conflict of interest, the full amount of the coupon must be refunded because no services have been performed.  Similarly, if the coupon is not used, the purchase price must be refunded to “avoid the ban on unreasonable fees in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.”

While the use of online coupons may generate new business, the potential ethical issues may outweigh the benefits.

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