Opinion 90-23
(January 1991)

You have requested the Professional Guidance Committee to give you an opinion under the Rules of Professional Conduct regarding correspondence and an accompanying brochure received by your firm from a collection service company. In accordance with the terms of a mailing received by you, a collection service company would mail a series of collection letters to delinquent accounts of the firm. A list of such accounts would be supplied by your firm to the collection service company. You would pay a charge per account; however, no commission or percentage of "collected funds" is charged. The letters would be sent by the collection service company and would request that payment be made directly to your firm. The brochure from the collection service company also refers to a letter that would be sent on an attorney's letterhead.

Rule 1.6(c)(3) of the Rules of Professional Conduct permits a lawyer to disclose information relating to representation of a client "to establish a claim or defense on behalf of the lawyer in a controversy between the lawyer and the client...." The communication of a list of delinquent accounts to a collection service company to prepare letters on their letterhead to the accounts would be permitted under this rule, provided you take adequate safeguards to otherwise preserve the confidentiality of your representation. However, the collection service company provides for an additional option described in the brochure as a series of letters with "the last letter being on an attorney's letterhead signed by the attorney." This raises some questions that the Committee cannot address without additional information. It is not clear from the material, who the attorney will be or what the attorney's relationship would be with your firm. The Committee expresses no opinion on this option.

Our response is based upon the facts as described in your letter dated November 21, 1990, seeking guidance on this matter and the material attached thereto. No opinion is expressed as to the substance of the letters that the collection service company proposes to use.

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.