Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the 2013 Advisory Opinion of the Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline which states that Ohio lawyers are not prohibited from soliciting potential clients via text messages with certain caveats. The Advisory Opinion is online here: https://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/Boards/BOC/Advisory_Opinions/2013/Op_13-002.pdf
The Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline issued Advisory Opinion 2013-12 in April 2013. The advisory opinion states that lawyers are permitted to use text messages to solicit clients if the texts comply with all Ohio Bar rules, including lawyer advertising and other general Bar rules. The opinion states that lawyers sending the text messages must pay all of the costs of the texting, cannot make false, misleading, or non-verifiable statements, or engage in coercion, duress, or harassment.
The advisory opinion states that “(t)he Board’s view is that a standard text message is more akin to an email than a chat room communication. Accordingly, a typical text message is not a ‘real time’ electronic contact.” The significance of this analysis is that, if the text was considered to be real time contact, such solicitations would be prohibited.
The advisory opinion also states that, pursuant to Ohio Bar rules, “the text message must notify the recipient of the means by which the lawyer learned of the potential need for legal services, for example, from accident reports or a court docket, and include ‘ADVERTISING MATERIAL’ or ‘ADVERTISEMENT ONLY’ at both the beginning and ending of the message. These descriptors must be conspicuous and in capital letters as designated in the rule. The text message also cannot include an evaluation of the case or a prediction of the outcome.”
Bottom line: The opinion’s finding that text message solicitations are “more akin to” a chat room and are not “real time” electronic communications means that Ohio lawyers can send text messages to potential clients, including potential personal injury clients, if the lawyer complies with the Ohio Bar rules
Let’s be careful out there!
Disclaimer: this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431
Clearwater, Florida 33759
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670