Rule 7.3. Solicitation of Clients.

 (a)  A lawyer shall not solicit in-person or by intermediary professional employment from a person with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain, unless the person contacted is a lawyer or has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer. The term ‘‘solicit’’ includes contact in-person by telephone or by real-time electronic communication, but, subject to the requirements of Rule 7.1 and Rule 7.3(b), does not include written communications, which may include targeted, direct mail advertisements.

 (b)  A lawyer may contact, or send a written communication to, the target of the solicitation for the purpose of obtaining professional employment unless:

   (1)  the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the physical, emotional or mental state of the person is such that the person could not exercise reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer;

   (2)  the person has made known to the lawyer a desire not to receive communications from the lawyer;

   (3)  the communication involves coercion, duress, or harassment; or

   (4)  the communication is a solicitation to a party who has been named as a defendant or respondent in a domestic relations action. In such cases, the lawyer shall wait until proof of service appears on the docket before communication with the named defendant or respondent.

Comment:

   (1) A solicitation is a targeted communication initiated by the lawyer that is directed to a specific person and that offers to provide, or can reasonably be understood as offering to provide, legal services. In contrast, a lawyer’s communication typically does not constitute a solicitation if it is directed to the general public, such as through a billboard, an Internet banner advertisement, a website or a television commercial, or if it is in response to a request for information or is automatically generated in response to Internet searches.

   (2) There is a potential for abuse when a solicitation involves direct in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact by a lawyer with someone known to need legal services. These forms of contact subject a person to the private importuning of a trained advocate, in a direct interpersonal encounter. The person who may already feel overwhelmed by the circumstances giving rise to the need for legal services, may find it difficult fully to evaluate all available alternatives with reasoned judgment and appropriate self-interest in the face of the lawyer’s presence and insistence upon being retained immediately. The situation is fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, and over-reaching.

   (3) This potential for abuse inherent in direct in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic solicitation justifies its prohibition, particularly since lawyers have alternative means of conveying necessary information to those who may be in need of legal services. In particular, communications can be mailed or transmitted by email or other electronic means that do not involve real-time contact and do not violate other laws governing solicitations. These forms of communications and solicitations make it possible for the public to be informed about the need for legal services, and about the qualifications of available lawyers and law firms, without subjecting the public to direct in-person, telephone or real-time electronic persuasion that may overwhelm a person’s judgment.

   (4) The use of general advertising and written, recorded or electronic communications to transmit information from lawyer to the public, rather than direct in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact, will help to assure that the information flows cleanly as well as freely. The contents of advertisements and communications permitted under Rule 7.2 can be permanently recorded so that they cannot be disputed and may be shared with others who know the lawyer. This potential for informal review is itself likely to help guard against statements and claims that might constitute false and misleading communications, in violation of Rule 7.1 The contents of direct in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact can be disputed and may not be subject to third-party scrutiny. Consequently, they are much more likely to approach (and occasionally cross) the dividing line between accurate representations from those that are false and misleading.

   (5) There is far less likelihood that a lawyer would engage in abusive practices against a former client, or a person with whom the lawyer has a close personal or family relationship, or in situations in which the lawyer is motivated by considerations other than the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. Nor is there a serious potential for abuse when the person contacted is a lawyer. Consequently, the general prohibition in Rule 7.3(a) is not applicable in those situations. Also, paragraph (a) is not intended to prohibit a lawyer from participating in constitutionally protected activities of public or charitable legal-service organizations or bona fide political, social, civic, fraternal, employee or trade organizations whose purposes include providing or recommending legal services to their members or beneficiaries.

   (6) But even permitted forms of solicitation can be abused. Thus, any solicitation which contains information which is false or misleading within the meaning of Rule 7.1, which involves coercion, duress or harassment within the meaning of Rule 7.3(b)(3), or which involves contact with someone who has made known to the lawyer desire not to be solicited by the lawyer within the meaning of Rule 7.3(b)(2) is prohibited. Moreover, if after sending a letter or other communication as permitted by Rule 7.2 the lawyer receives no response, any further effort to communicate with the recipient of the communication may violate the provisions of Rule 7.3(b).

   (7) This Rule is not intended to prohibit a lawyer from contacting representatives of organizations or groups that may be interested in establishing a group or prepaid legal plan for their members, insureds, beneficiaries or other third-parties for the purposes informing such entities of the availability of and details concerning the plan or arrangement which the lawyer or lawyer’s firm is willing to offer. This form of communication is not directed to people who are seeking legal services for themselves. Rather, it is usually addressed to an individual acting in a fiduciary capacity seeking a supplier of legal services for others who may, if they choose, become prospective clients of the lawyer. Under these circumstances, the activity which the lawyer undertakes in communicating with such representatives and the type of information transmitted to the individual are functionally similar to and serve the same purpose as advertising permitted under Rule 7.2.

   (8) In this instance, the term ‘‘domestic relations action’’ includes the actions governed by the Family Court Rules, see Pa.R.C.P. No. 1931(a), and actions pursuant to the Protection of Victims of Sexual Violence or Intimidation Act, see 42 Pa.C.S. § §  62A03 et seq. In such cases, a defendant/respondent party’s receipt of a lawyer’s solicitation prior to being served with the complaint can increase the risk of a violent confrontation between the parties. The prohibition in RPC 7.3(b)(4) against any solicitation prior to proof of service appearing on the docket is intended to reduce any such risk and allow for the plaintiff to take any appropriate steps.

Source

   The provisions of this Rule 7.3 amended October 22, 2013, effective in 30 days, 43 Pa.B. 6641; amended July 30, 2018, effective in 60 days, 48 Pa.B. 4812. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (369545) to (369547).



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