Rule 7.3 describes the ways in which you may and may not reach out to prospective clients for purposes of getting them to hire you for their legal matter. Although solicitation is a restricted activity under the Rules of Profession Conduct, it is interesting to note how little is prohibited and how much is otherwise permitted.
Following are the prohibitions. Please keep in mind that everything that is not a prohibition is, by implication, allowed. Again, please research your local rules.
Rule 7.3a says, “A lawyer shall not in person, live telephone, or real time electronic content, solicit professional employment.”
What does “in person, live telephone, real time electronic content” mean?
If you are face-to-face, or on the phone with them, or if you are doing real-time electronic content, you cannot say, “We see that you’re badly injured there and it sounds like there’s some liability and insurance; we can turn your injury into cash, so you should hire us.” Rule 7.3a explains that you cannot do that, except towards certain categories of people. (It is still permitted to engage in real-time solicitation towards another attorney, a friend, relative, colleague, or former client).
What is real time electronic content?
In Ohio, it was decided that a chat-room is considered real time communication, but that email is not. A chat session from your website would likely be viewed as “real time electronic contact,” similar to that of a phone call or in person conversation, but you still cannot use real-time communication if that person you’re approaching has made it clear they don’t want to be solicited.
You also cannot use methods that are described in 7.3 as “coercion, duress, or harassment.”
So, if you’re approaching someone at a party or you’re on the phone to a relative or friend, former client or another lawyer, and it’s unsolicited, the solicitation is permitted, unless you are using coercion, duress, or harassment as outlined in Rule 7.3.