ISBA Futures Report
Other Bar Association Futures Reports
- Oregon (June 2017)
- Michigan (2017)
- ABA (2016)
- Vermont (September 2015)
- Utah (July 2015)
- Minnesota (May 2015)
Other Resources and Links
- Advancing Access to Justice in Illinois (May 2017)
- Illinois Supreme Court Access to Justice
- Canadian Bar Association – Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services Report (August 2014)
- Canadian Bar Association – Legal Futures Initiative (June 2013)
- Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism - 2Civility
Lead Generation, Professional Independence, and Fee Sharing
A "Futures" issue being considered by many bars across the country is how to address nonlawyer for-profit matching or referral services. In Illinois, it has been the subject of an extensive study by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. That study and the ISBA's comments to it are set out below. In lawyer ethics language, matching and referral services are a type of "lead generation" – essentially a form of lawyer advertising. Fueled by the power and convenience of the internet, these nonlawyer for-profit services are often portrayed as a means to address the latent legal market and provide the public with greater access to legal services. How the services are paid for and how lawyers participate can vary from service to service. These services raise a number of lawyer ethics issues, and several bars and courts have issued formal lawyer guidance.
The New York State Bar Association concluded in its Ethics Opinion 1132 (August 8, 2017) that participating in Avvo Legal Services constituted an improper payment for a recommendation.
In June, 2017, three Committees of the New Jersey Supreme Court found that lawyers could not participate in Avvo Legal Services because its business model constituted improper fee sharing as well as improper payment for referrals.
The Pennsylvania Bar Association determined in Formal Opinion 2016-200 (September 2016) that a fixed fee limited scope referral program violated restrictions on fee sharing and trust account requirements.
The South Carolina Bar Association in Ethics Advisory Opinion 16-06 (July 14, 2016) concluded that payment to a lead generator based upon the participating lawyer's fee was impermissible as fee sharing and an improper advertisement payment.
A Committee of the Ohio Supreme Court opined in June, 2016 that a lead generation service whose fee is dependent on the number of clients obtained for a lawyer or calculated as a percentage of lawyer fees earned is improper.