Rule 7.3 Direct Contact With Potential Prospective Clients
(a) A lawyer shall not by in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact, solicit professional employment from a prospective client when a significant motive for the lawyer's doing so is the lawyer's pecuniary gain, unless the person contacted:
(1) is a lawyer; or
(2) has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.
(b) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment from a prospective client by written, recorded or electronic communication or by in-person, telephone or real-time electronic contact even when not otherwise prohibited by paragraph (a), if:
(1) the prospective client target of the solicitation has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer; or
(2) the solicitation involves coercion, duress or harassment.
(c) Every written, recorded or electronic communication from a lawyer soliciting professional employment from anyone a prospective client known to be in need of legal services in a particular matter shall include the words "Advertising Material" on the outside envelope, if any, and at the beginning and ending of any recorded or electronic communication, unless the recipient of the communication is a person specified in paragraphs (a)(1) or (a)(2).
(d) Notwithstanding the prohibitions in paragraph (a), a lawyer may participate with a prepaid or group legal service plan operated by an organization not owned or directed by the lawyer that uses in-person or telephone contact to solicit memberships or subscriptions for the plan from persons who are not known to need legal services in a particular matter covered by the plan.
 A solicitation is a targeted communication initiated by the lawyer that is directed to a specific person and that offers to provide, or can reasonably be understood as offering to provide, legal services. In contrast, a lawyer’s communication typically does not constitute a solicitation if it is directed to the general public, such as through a billboard, an Internet banner advertisement, a website or a television commercial, or if it is in response to a request for information or is automatically generated in response to Internet searches.
 There is a potential for abuse when a solicitation involves inherent in direct in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact by a lawyer with someone a prospective client known to need legal services. These forms of contact between a lawyer and a prospective client subject the layperson to the private importuning of the trained advocate in a direct interpersonal encounter. The layperson prospective client, who may already feel overwhelmed by the circumstances giving rise to the need for legal services, may find it difficult fully to evaluate all available alternatives with reasoned judgment and appropriate self-interest in the face of the lawyer’s presence and insistence upon being retained immediately. The situation is fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, and over-reaching.
 This potential for abuse inherent in direct in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic solicitation of prospective clients justifies its prohibition, particularly since lawyers have advertising and written and recorded communication permitted under Rule 7.2 offer alternative means of conveying necessary information to those who may be in need of legal services. Advertising and written and recorded In particular, communications, can which may be be mailed or autodialed or transmitted by email or other electronic means that do not involve real-time contact and do not violate other law governing solicitations. These forms of communications and solicitations make it possible for the public a prospective client to be informed about the need for legal services, and about the qualifications of available lawyers and law firms, without subjecting the a layperson prospective client to direct in-person, telephone or real-time electronic persuasion that may overwhelm the layperson’s client's judgment.
 The use of general advertising and written, recorded or electronic communications to transmit information from lawyer to the public prospective client, rather than direct in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact, will help to assure that the information flows cleanly as well as freely. The contents of advertisements and communications permitted under Rule 7.2 can be permanently recorded so that they cannot be disputed and may be shared with others who know the lawyer. This potential for informal review is itself likely to help guard against statements and claims that might constitute false and misleading communications, in violation of Rule 7.1. The contents of direct in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic conversations between a lawyer and a prospective client contact can be disputed and may not be subject to third-party scrutiny. Consequently, they are much more likely to approach (and occasionally cross) the dividing line between accurate representations and those that are false and misleading.
 There is far less likelihood that a lawyer would engage in abusive practices against an individual who is a former client, or with whom the lawyer has close personal or family relationship, or in situations in which the lawyer is motivated by considerations other than the lawyer's pecuniary gain. Nor is there a serious potential for abuse when the person contacted is a lawyer. Consequently, the general prohibition in Rule 7.3(a) and the requirements of Rule 7.3(c) are not applicable in those situations. Also, paragraph (a) is not intended to prohibit a lawyer from participating in constitutionally protected activities of public or charitable legal-service organizations or bona fide political, social, civic, fraternal, employee or trade organizations whose purposes include providing or recommending legal services to its members or beneficiaries.
 But even permitted forms of solicitation can be abused. Thus, any solicitation which contains information which is false or misleading within the meaning of Rule 7.1, which involves coercion, duress or harassment within the meaning of Rule 7.3(b)(2), or which involves contact with a prospective client someone who has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer within the meaning of Rule 7.3(b)(1) is prohibited. Moreover, if after sending a letter or other communication to a client as permitted by Rule 7.2 the lawyer receives no response, any further effort to communicate with the recipient of the communication prospective client may violate the provisions of Rule 7.3(b).
 This Rule is not intended to prohibit a lawyer from contacting representatives of organizations or groups that may be interested in establishing a group or prepaid legal plan for their members, insureds, beneficiaries or other third parties for the purpose of informing such entities of the availability of and details concerning the plan or arrangement which the lawyer or lawyer's firm is willing to offer. This form of communication is not directed to people who are seeking legal services for themselves. a prospective client. Rather, it is usually addressed to an individual acting in a fiduciary capacity seeking a supplier of legal services for others who may, if they choose, become prospective clients of the lawyer. Under these circumstances, the activity which the lawyer undertakes in communicating with such representatives and the type of information transmitted to the individual are functionally similar to and serve the same purpose as advertising permitted under Rule 7.2.
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Explanation for the Commission's Proposal
Rule 7.3 regulates a lawyer’s direct contacts with potential clients. Paragraph (a) prohibits most kinds of in-person, live telephone, and real-time electronic solicitations, but the Rule permits (and regulates) other forms of solicitations, such as those sent by direct mail and email.
The Commission concluded that lawyers would benefit from a clearer definition of what kinds of communications constitute a “solicitation” and thus fall within the scope of Rule 7.3. In the early days of the Internet, little such guidance was needed. Ethics opinions had concluded that emails constituted a solicitation and were governed by Rule 7.3, but that less targeted forms of advertising (such as websites) were not governed by the Rule. Today, however, lawyers can post information on their social or professional networking pages (which function like websites), but can control the viewers and enter into conversations via those pages (like email). Similarly, some websites allow lawyers and potential clients to interact, sometimes in “real-time” and sometimes not. The Commission was advised that lawyers are uncertain as to whether these new forms of Internet-based activities fall within Rule 7.3.
The Commission concluded that, to address this ambiguity, lawyers need a clearer definition of a “solicitation.” A new proposed Comment  would explain that a lawyer’s communications constitute a solicitation when the lawyer “offers to provide, or can be reasonably understood to be offering to provide, legal services to a specific potential client.” The phrase “reasonably understood to be offering to provide” is intended to ensure that lawyers are governed by the Rule even if their communications do not contain a formal offer of representation, but are nevertheless clearly intended for that purpose. For example, if a lawyer approaches potential clients at their homes and describes various legal services, the lawyer’s communications constitute a “solicitation” even if the lawyer does not formally offer to provide those services, as long as a reasonable person would interpret the lawyer’s communications as an offer to provide those services.
The second sentence is designed to clarify that responses to requests for information and advertisements that are not directed to specific people are not “solicitations.” For example, the sentence makes clear that advertisements that are automatically generated in response to an Internet search are not solicitations. Because those advertisements are generated in response to Internet research, they are more analogous to a lawyer’s response to a request for information (which is not a solicitation) than an unsolicited and targeted letter to a potential client who is known to be in need of a particular legal service (which is a solicitation). These examples are intended to clarify when a lawyer’s activities constitute a solicitation and are thus governed by Rule 7.3.
The Commission concluded that additional elaboration on this point also would be useful in renumbered Comment . In particular, technology has enabled various kinds of online interactions between lawyers and potential clients. The clarifying language makes clear that lawyers do not violate paragraph (a) if they are responding to a request for information, which can occur in many settings, including online.
The Commission’s research also revealed that “autodialing” (or “robo-calling”) is now unlawful in many situations. See, e.g., 47 U.S.C. 227(b). As a result, the Commission proposes to delete the reference to “autodialing” in renumbered Comment  and to remind lawyers that other law often governs a lawyer’s conduct in this area.
Finally, the Commission’s proposal addresses a matter of terminology. With the creation of Rule 1.18 in 2002, the phrase “prospective client” refers to a potential client who has actually shared information with a lawyer. Rule 7.3 clearly intends to cover contacts with all possible future clients, not just those who have had some contact with lawyers and have become “prospective clients” under Rule 1.18. (See the description of Model Rule 1.18 earlier in this Report.) Accordingly, the Commission proposes to replace the word “prospective” with the word “potential” throughout Rule 7.3 and its Comments.
 Such communications, however, may be governed by other rules, including Rule 7.1 (communications concerning a lawyer’s services).