Ohio Ethics Advisory Opinion states that Ohio lawyers are not prohibited from soliciting potential clients via text messages

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: http://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



About jcorsmeier

Joseph A. Corsmeier is an “AV” rated attorney practicing in Clearwater, Florida. He concentrates his practice primarily in the areas of defense of attorney disciplinary matters before The Florida Bar, attorney admission matters before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, and professional license and disciplinary matters before the Boards of the State of Florida. He provides expert analysis and opinion on conflict of interest and other attorney disqualification and legal malpractice issues and he testified as an expert in the Florida courts. He served as an Assistant State Attorney in the Sixth Judicial Circuit from 1986 to 1990 where he prosecuted felonies exclusively from June 1987, and as Bar Counsel for The Florida Bar’s Department of Lawyer Regulation from 1990 to 1998. He also practices in the areas of estate planning and Medicaid qualification, workers’ compensation, and labor law. Mr. Corsmeier is the author of numerous articles for various bar publications, has spoken at numerous local and statewide seminars on various topics, including ethics and professionalism, and was an instructor of legal ethics for paralegals at Rollins College until the Tampa campus closed. He received his undergraduate degree from Florida State University and his J.D. from Mercer University. He is admitted to practice in all Florida Courts, the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and the Middle District of Florida. He is a member of The Florida Bar, American Bar Association, the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, and the Clearwater and St. Petersburg Bar Associations.
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