You have asked this Committee to render an opinion on the following facts: Many businesses and professionals are now giving coupons to their clients and patients giving them a discount for repeat patronage. If a lawyer did this, you want to know if the Rules of Professional Conduct would view this as the giving of something of value to a nonlawyer in contravention of the Rules, or merely giving a once and potential client a lower fee?
Rule of Professional Conduct 7.2(c) provides that:
A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyers services, except that a lawyer may pay the reasonable cost of advertising or written communication permitted by the rule and may pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit lawyer referral service or other legal service organization.
Rule 7.2(c) is designed to prevent a nonattorney from channeling work to an attorney in exchange for a fee or compensation in kind. One of the Rules intentions is delineated in the Comment to the Rule which provides in part that,
. . .advertising by lawyers entails the risk of practices that are misleading or overreaching.
Providing a coupon or discount to a present or future client is not giving anything of value to an individual for recommending your services. It is a permissible act not precluded by the rules aimed directly at potential clients themselves, not third parties who would recommend your services. This combined with the fact that the discount directly benefits the client, makes the Committee of the opinion that there is nothing unethical about the proposed conduct.
In closing, the Committee reminds you that under Rule of Professional Conduct 7.1(a) the discount applied must not be false or misleading. Rather it must indeed be an actual discount, not a reduction of an inflated price.
CAVEAT: The foregoing opinion is advisory only and is based upon the facts as set forth above. The opinion is not binding on the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any court. It carries only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.