Opinion 2003-6
(May 2003)

The inquirer requested a review of a form letter that he intends to send to prospective clients who may have been recently charged with a criminal offense. The inquirer's letter discusses his prior service as an assistant district attorney and his work while there with DUI cases as well as major felonies. He also talks about his present practice and his educational background.

Targeted direct mail solicitation, such as that proposed by the inquirer, is in fact advertisement and is subject to Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct 7.1 through 7.7. Specifically, Rule 7.1 (Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Service), Rule 7.2 (Advertising) and Rule 7.3 (Direct Contact with Prospective Clients), all impact the inquiry.

The inquirer is directed to review the full text of these Rules prior to mailing his letter or engaging in any type of advertising.

Turning to the letter submitted for review the type of targeted direct mail solicitation involved is specifically permitted under Rule 7.3a. However, the inquirer is cautioned to abide by the provisions of Rule 7.3b which prohibit such communications if the recipient is of a state of mind preventing him/her from exercising reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer, the recipient has made known to the lawyer that he/she does not wish to receive such communications, or the letter involves coercion, duress of harassment.

The inquirer's attention is drawn to all the provisions of Rule 7.2, but particularly that of Rule 7.2(b) regarding record retention of advertising which would in fact apply to the dissemination of the letter in question.

Providing the inquirer's compliance with the above referenced rules, and assuming that the representations made in the inquirer's letter are accurate and the letter contains nothing fraudulent false or misleading as prohibited by Rule 7.1, then the Committee is of the opinion that the inquirer may disseminate the letter.

The Philadelphia Bar Association's Professional Guidance Committee provides, upon request, advice for lawyers facing or anticipating facing ethical dilemmas. Advice is based on the consideration of the facts of the particular inquirer's situation and the Rules of Professional Conduct as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Committee's opinions are advisory only and are based upon the facts set forth. The opinions are not binding upon the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. They carry only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.