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Can Attorneys Solicit Clients by Text Message?

Texting may not be the most efficient way to pick up new clients, but it's not explicitly barred under Ohio's legal ethics rules, the ABA Journal reports.

Earlier this month, the Ohio Supreme Court's ethics board announced in a ruling that lawyers may solicit clients by text message as long as they follow the applicable federal and state telemarketing laws, according to the ABA/BNA Lawyers' Manual on Professional Conduct.

How do these texting solicitations work? The board explains:

In the usual scenario reported to the Board, lawyers obtain the cellular phone numbers of prospective clients from accident or police reports. The lawyer then sends SMS text messages … directly to the cellular phone numbers indicated in the reports. The messages contain direct solicitations for professional employment. Given the limited number of characters usually available in a standard text message, the message contains very general information about the lawyer and his or her legal services. Often the message will contain an [I]nternet link to a website that contains additional advertising material.

Ohio rules bar lawyers from soliciting clients through “in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact,” but lawyers are permitted to “advertise services through written, recorded, or electronic communication, including public media.”

While it seems that text messages could fall within either the “real-time electronic contact” category or the “written communication,” the board concluded, “a plain reading of Rule 7.2(a) indicates that lawyers may use text messages to advertise their services.”

As we mentioned earlier, lawyers still have to abide by the telemarketing limitations. The ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct notes texting solicitations must potentially comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM Act), and the Do Not Call Registry.

Though we’re all happy to hear that Ohio resolved its attorney-texting conundrum, the decision doesn’t do much good for lawyers in the remaining jurisdictions. If your state’s rules on this issue remain unclear, ask for an advisory opinion.

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