Opinion 94-1
(February 1994)

You have asked for an opinion on the following conduct: From public records you would like to discover who is a party to a divorce and to contact these individuals by mail. Your communication will offer your guidance in assessing their case and suggesting possible settlements. You note that you would not suggest that the litigants change lawyers, and that you would only give the divorce parties a general view of what they can expect and the fees they can expect to pay.

While there is nothing impermissible about determining parties to divorces from public records, and even though targeted direct mail solicitation is permitted under Rule 7.3a, the Committee is of the opinion that your proposed conduct violates Rules l.7a (conflict of interest), 4.2 (contact with a person represented by counsel) and 7.la (contact which is materially misleading).

Rule 1.7a prohibits you from representing adverse parties. By contacting parties to a divorce you will be counseling, as an attorney, both spouses in the divorce. This would be the practice of law, and your clients would be adverse parties.

Contacting a party already represented by counsel, in order to communicate about fees and what to expect in terms of a settlement, are two areas that are primary to the attorney-client relationship. Contacting a represented party, even though advising them not to fire their attorney, nevertheless violates Rule 4.2. The Comment to that rule is particularly pertinent and provides in part that, "This Rule also covers any person, whether or not a party to a formal proceeding, who is represented by counsel concerning the matter in question.

Your proposed communication is misleading, and violates Rule 7.la, in that it might lead a layman to think that you were not contacting them as an attorney, and that your proposed services would not be those that would be considered legal representation, which they are.

In closing, the Committee urges you to carefully review the legal implications of your conduct in terms of the potential tortious interference with an ongoing contractual relationship.

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.