Opinion 91-34
(December 1991)

You have asked the Committee whether you would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct if you advertised in a publication that you would prepare a Living Will free of charge for a client, provided that the client had made a charitable contribution to a designated charity within the preceding three months.

The Committee is of the opinion that this advertisement and arrangement does not violate the Rules. The proposed advertisement clearly does not run afoul of Rules 7.1 and 7.2, relating to Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services and Advertising, respectively.

The proposed arrangement of providing free legal services on the condition that the client makes a specified charitable contribution is also permissible. The Committee considered whether the proposal violates Rule 5.4, Professional Independence of a Lawyer, which, subject to several exceptions, prohibits the sharing of a legal fee with a nonlawyer. Under the proposal, however, a fee is not shared between a lawyer and nonlawyer, but instead, the lawyer is in essence contributing his fee to a specified charity. Rule 5.4(a) is directed to prohibiting a different type of fee splitting, such as the sharing of fees within a law firm between attorneys and non-attorneys or the sharing of fees by a lawyer or law firm with a business enterprise. The proposal also does not offend the principle sought to be protected by Rule 5.4, namely the protection of the lawyer's professional independence of judgment, see comment. On the assumed facts, the proposal does not encroach on Inquirer's independence.

   

The Philadelphia Bar Association's Professional Guidance Committee provides, upon request, advice for lawyers facing or anticipating facing ethical dilemmas. Advice is based on the consideration of the facts of the particular inquirer's situation and the Rules of Professional Conduct as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Committee's opinions are advisory only and are based upon the facts set forth. The opinions are not binding upon the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. They carry only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.