You can add Arizona to the growing number of jurisdictions offering opinions on whether lawyers can use online coupon sites, like Groupon, to develop new business.
In Opinion 13-1, the State Bar of Arizona concluded that lawyers will find it difficult to comply with the numerous ethics rules implicated by this form of marketing. Here's a key passage:
Many ethical issues may arise if a lawyer opts to use such an Internet marketing voucher or coupon. These issues include, among others, whether a conflict with current or former clients precludes an attorney-client relationship under ER 1.7 or ER 1.9; the voucher or coupon model ensures confidentiality under ER 1.6; the fees paid directly to the Internet marketing service provider, and partially retained by the Internet marketing service provider, result in unethical fee-sharing with non-lawyers or a failure to properly safeguard an advance deposit in the lawyer’s trust account in violation of ER 5.4 and ER 1.15, respectively; the lawyer violates ER 7.2 in the course of advertising; the lawyer participating in the voucher program has adequately defined for the client that the attorney-client relationship has commenced; the scope of the engagement is specifically defined following actual consultation with the potential client leading to informed consent as to the scope of work under ER 1.2(c); the lawyer is competent to perform the work requested via the voucher as required by ER 1.1; and the lawyer is acting consistent with his or her obligations of professional independence under ER 2.1. As the facts, context and terms and conditions of any attorney-client relationship emanating from a voucher program will vary, it is impossible to address all possibilities. Lawyers are advised to carefully consider all of their ethical obligations if they intend to pursue a voucher or coupon program. Generally speaking, the strong likelihood of violating one or more Ethical Rules by using an Internet marketing service voucher or coupon make such an arrangement problematic.
The Opinion also discusses several other relevant opinions, including from Indiana, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina. So far, the opinions are mixed. New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina are fairly permissive, though they all note several possible concerns. Arizona and Indiana are considerably more restrictive. And Alabama has flatly concluded that the use of "deal of the day" sites is impermissible.