May a Lawyer Hand Out Brochures at a Client-Development Seminar?

No-SolicitingNo, according to a recent Ohio ethics opinion. See Sup. Ct. of Ohio, Bd. of Prof’l Cond., Op. 2015-2 (Aug. 7, 2015). Lawyers may offer informational seminars and place firm brochures and information near the exit of the seminar. However, “neither the lawyer nor the lawyer’s personal representatives may personally distribute the materials.” That, according to the committee, is solicitation.

Louisiana Rule of Professional Conduct 7.4(a) prohibits a lawyer from soliciting employment from an unrelated, new client either in person or by telephone when “a significant motive” for doing so is pecuniary gain. See also Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar, 436 U.S. 447, 449 (1978); In re Jones, 952 So. 2d 673 (La. 2007) (disbarring lawyer for, among other things, soliciting at a funeral home where parents of a man killed by police were making funeral arrangements). The rule prohibits such in-person or telephone solicitation whether or not the lawyer knows that the person needs legal services. Presumably, “solicitation” would include personally offering brochures to attendees at a seminar. However, having brochures available and simply handing them to prospective clients who specifically request them certainly should not run afoul of this rule.

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