The Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association inquires concerning the propriety of requiring participating members to help finance their lawyer referral service by contributing a percentage of fees generated by referrals.
The Board in Formal Ethics Opinion 88-F-115, citing ABA Formal Opinion 291 and Ethical Consideration 2-1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, approved the lawyer referral service of a non-profit metropolitan bar association requiring participating members to contribute no more than ten percent of net fees realized from a referral to finance the referral program; provided the contributions are used exclusively to assist with the administrative expenses of the referral program; and provided the participating lawyers do not increase the hourly rate or the percentage of a contingency fee, or in any way pass on the contribution to the clients.
A similar inquiry is made by a non-profit statewide bar association.
The Board approves the concept of financing lawyer referral service programs as expressed in Formal Ethics Opinion 88-F-115 for lawyer referral services operated and sponsored by bar associations representative of the general bar of the geographical area in which the bar association exists.
The Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association is representative of the general plaintiffs trial lawyers bar of Tennessee and therefore qualifies to require its participating members to contribute, as stated in 88-F-115, to its lawyer referral service program.
This 17th day of January, 1989.
Thomas H. Rainey
Henry H. Hancock
Edwin C. Townsend
APPROVED AND ADOPTED BY THE BOARD