Earlier this week, the Ohio Supreme Court Board of Professional Conduct issued 2 new Advisory Opinions on lawyers participation in lawyer referral services and law students with legal intern certificates :
1) 2016-3: "SYLLABUS: A lawyer should carefully evaluate a lawyer referral service, or similar online model, to ensure that it complies with the Rules of Professional Conduct and the ethical requirements of the lawyer. Where the service meets all of the elements of a lawyer referral service, a participating lawyer must ensure that the service complies with Gov.Bar R. XVI, in order for the lawyer to comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct. A lawyer’s participation in an online, nonlawyer-owned legal referral service, where the lawyer is required to pay a “marketing fee” to a nonlawyer for each service completed for a client, is unethical. A lawyer must ensure that the lawyer referral service does not interfere with the lawyer’s independent professional judgment under Prof.Cond.R. 5.4. A lawyer is responsible for the conduct of the nonlawyers of the service (Prof.Cond.R. 5.3), as well as the advertising and marketing provided by the service on the lawyer’s behalf. Prof.Cond.R. 7.1, 7.2, 7.3. Additionally, a fee structure that is tied specifically to individual client representations that a lawyer completes or to the percentage of a fee is not permissible, unless the lawyer referral service is registered with the Supreme Court of Ohio. Prof.Cond.R. 1.5, Gov.Bar R. XVI."
2) 2016-4: "SYLLABUS: A law student holding a legal intern certificate, issued by the Supreme Court under Gov.Bar R. II, is engaged in the limited practice of law and bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct. Conflicts of interest arising out of a legal intern’s current or former representation of clients are imputed to all lawyers in a private law firm when the intern is employed simultaneously as a law firm clerk. The conflicts of a former legal intern, newly employed as a lawyer, are not imputed to the lawyers in a law firm, but necessitate the screening of the lawyer from any matter he or she had substantial responsibility."