Lots of lawyers come to me asking if those referral groups were worth their time. I checked out one called LeTip a number of years ago and wasn’t really impressed with the opportunities. It felt too forced for my liking, and I’m not really into the glad-handing that goes on.
There’s a similar group called BNI. This group apparently forces group members to refer business to one another. In thinking about it, the scheme doesn’t sound like it’s really fit for lawyers. My suspicions were confirmed by reading an from Oregon (OSB Formal Ethics Op. No. 2004-175 concerning “Lawyer Membership in Business Referral Clubs”). The issue seems to be the mandatory referrals to group members.
“The question posed to the legal ethics committee was whether Lawyer A may participate in the activities of the association, and the committee concluded that the lawyer could not do so. The ethics committee found that participation in the association would violate DR 2-103(A) which prohibits a lawyer from compensating or giving anything of value to a person or organization to promote, recommend or secure employment by a client or as a reward for having made a recommendation resulting in employment by a client. The committee also concluded that participation in the association would violate DR 2-105 which prevents a lawyer from referring a client to a nonlawyer with the understanding that the lawyer will receive a fee, commission or anything of value in exchange for the referral.”
Read the entire formal ethics opinion. As far as I’m concerned, I think I’d leave these organizations to other professions.
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