Attorneys in Ohio can solicit clients via text messages as long as they follow ethics rules about advertising and follow telemarketing laws, the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct ruled last week.
In Advisory Opinion 2017-3, the board provides guidance for lawyers who desire to use unsolicited emails as a form of advertising to attract new clients.
As a general rule, lawyers are not permitted to solicit clients through in-person contact, real-time electronic contact or by live telephone, according to the board.
However, other forms of non-direct solicitation by lawyers are permissible.
The board advises that email is a form of indirect communication that may be utilized by lawyers to seek new clients.
However, the lawyer must abide by other conduct rules when using email as a form of advertisement including avoiding misleading communications, not engaging in unwanted communications or harassment, and adding a disclaimer that the email is an “Advertisement Only.”
The opinion also advises lawyers to use third-party services to send the emails, as long as the lawyer maintains responsibility for the actions of the service, as well as the content of the emails.
The opinion updates and withdraws former Adv. Op. 2004-1.
In Advisory Opinion 2017-4, the Board considered the ability of a former magistrate, now practicing law, to represent a domestic relations client, post-decree, in a matter originally heard by the magistrate.
The board advises that a former magistrate may not represent the client, unless all parties consent in writing to the representation.
If the former magistrate is not permitted to represent the client, no lawyer in the former magistrate’s firm may either, unless the former magistrate is timely and properly screened by the firm, receives no part of the fee and written notice is provided to the parties and the court.
The board also advises that under the Ohio Ethics Law, the former magistrate is prohibited for 12 months from representing a client in any matter the former magistrate personally participated before leaving public office.
The opinion updates and withdraws former Adv. Op. 2005-5.
The group issued a number of advisory opinions on lawyer advertising and the representation of clients by a former magistrate.
The opinions update and replace opinions previously issued by the board under the former Code of Professional Responsibility and the former Code of Judicial Conduct.