Ethics Opinions

Opinion No. 73-1

Summary: It would be improper for a lawyer to offer to a university administration a program to provide legal advice to college students for compensation.

Facts: Attorneys A and B, partners in the practice of law, propose to offer a program of "counseling" at colleges in the Boston area. As they describe the proposed arrangement: "... our primary function would be to conduct an initial interview whereby we would answer students' questions with respect to their legal problems. Hopefully, we could advise them of their rights and remedies which prior to consultation lay undiscovered. In this capacity, we would act as a conduit between the students and members of the bar. Those students whose problems required a lawyer would be channelled to a lawyer. Those students whose claims appear to be suspect, apocryphal, or moot would be so advised ... . We would in no way advise them as to whom to choose, but rather provide them with several attorneys' names whom they could contact to see if these attorneys would be interested in representing them ... . We would charge those students who decide to participate a nominal fee of one dollar per month ... . As for our initial entrance into the various college communities, we feel that the university administration should be contacted and we would proceed only with their approval."

Discussion: Under the proposed arrangement, it is obvious that the lawyers participating in it would be giving legal advice and counsel to the students. The solicitation of an opportunity to do so would be in violation of Disciplinary Rules DR 2-103(A) ("A lawyer shall not recommend employment, as a private practitioner, of himself, his partner, or associate to a non-lawyer who has not sought his advice regarding employment of a lawyer") and DR 2-103(C) ("A lawyer shall not request a person or organization to recommend employment, as a private practitioner, of himself, his partner, or associate ... ." with exception for certain lawyer referral services).
The fact that students with legal problems would be referred to other lawyers for further assistance does not change the fact that the lawyers offering the initial counseling services would be soliciting their own employment in the first instance.


Permission to publish granted by the Board of Delegates, 1973. As stated in the Rules of the Committee on Professional Ethics, this advice is that of a committee without official governmental status.
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