Ethics Opinion 182

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Professional Ethics Committee Opinions

Opinion #182 – 03/23/1971 (12-71)

Topic: Lawyer referral plan for narcotic cases
Digest: Lawyer may properly participate in referral panel for narcotic cases provided plan is approved by appropriate bar association
Code: EC 2-15; DR 2-103(C); 2-103(D)(3); 2-105(A)(2)

QUESTION

A civic organization plans to establish a referral service which will maintain a panel of attorneys qualified to handle narcotic cases. Each panel member will negotiate his own fee with each client. There will be no solicitation by the civic organization, which will act only in the event a person seeking assistance requests that he be referred to an attorney. May an attorney properly participate as a panel member?

OPINION

EC 2-15 provides:”The legal profession has developed lawyer referral systems designed to aid individuals who are able to pay fees but need assistance in locating lawyers competent to handle their particular problems. Use of a lawyer referral system enables a layman to avoid an uninformed selection of a lawyer because such a system makes possible the employment of competent lawyers who have indicated an interest in the subject matter involved. Lawyers should support the principle of lawyer referral systems and should encourage the evolution of other ethical plans which aid in the selection of qualified counsel.”DR 2-103(C) provides in pertinent part:”A lawyer….may request referrals from a lawyer referral service operated, sponsored, or approved by a bar association representative of the general bar of the geographical area in which the association exists and may pay its fees incident thereto.”DR 2-103 provides in pertinent part:”(D)      A lawyer …may cooperate in a dignified manner with the legal service activities of any of the following, provided that his independent professional judgment is exercised in behalf of his client without interference or control by any organization or other person:”(3)      A lawyer referral service operated, sponsored, or approved by a bar association representative of the general bar of the geographical area in which the association exists.”DR 2-105(A)(2) provides:”A lawyer may permit his name to be listed in lawyer referral service offices according to the fields of law in which he will accept referrals.”These provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility reaffirm prior American Bar Association opinions holding that a local bar association may form a panel of attorneys who are willing to serve thereon provided the plan is supervised by the local bar association, no individual attorney’s name is advertised, and such publicity as is necessary is directed toward apprising the public of the method and means by which the plan is carried out. ABA 205 (1940); ABA 227 (1941); ABA 291 (1956).Accordingly, participation in the proposed panel is not improper, provided the lawyer referral service is approved by a bar association representative of the general bar of the geographical area in which the service is to be provided.

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