Under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, may a lawyer use a nonlawyer employee to attract prospective clients to a booth in a public place operated by that nonlawyer employee?
Immediately after several hail storms, a lawyer sets up a booth at a public venue. The booth is staffed by a nonlawyer employee of the lawyer’s law firm. Signs at the booth advertise the firm’s services in representing property owners/policyholders in first-party claims against insurance companies in property damage disputes. The booth displays photos of damaged property; the name, address, and telephone number of the law firm; and phrases such as “AFFECTED BY HAIL?”
The nonlawyer employee only speaks to individuals who approach the booth. Thus, none of these efforts consist of live, person-to-person contact initiated by the lawyer or nonlawyer employee.
When an individual approaches the booth, the employee distributes brochures that (1) communicate the same information as the booth’s signs and (2) invite recipients to contact the law firm for more information about the law firm’s services in representing policyholders/property owners in disputes with their insurance companies. The employee converses with visitors to the booth only upon request and orally communicates the same information as the brochures and signs.
These efforts are directed to the general public who can walk past the booth without taking a brochure or talking to the nonlawyer employee. Visitors to be booth are free to disregard the information they receive or to consider the information at a later time. Any cases resulting from such advertising efforts are handled on a contingent fee basis.
Tex. Comm. On Professional Ethics, Op. 689 (2020)