Colorado

Differences from ABA Model Rules

Rule 1.2(c) Limited Scope Significant Changes
Rule 5.4(a) Fee-Sharing Significant Changes
Rules 5.4(b)-(d) Non-Lawyer OwnershipSignificant Changes
Rule 5.5. Unauthorized Practice of LawSignificant Changes
Rule 5.7 Law Related Services Same as Model Rule
Rule 6.5 Limited ScopeSame as Model Rule
Rule 7.2(b) Lawyer ReferralSignificant Changes
Cloud Computing AdvisoryNo
Technology Competency Rules Yes

ABA Rule 1.2(c) (Limited Scope)

Rule 1.2. Scope of Representation and Allocation of Authority Between Client and Lawyer.


(c) A lawyer may limit the scope or objectives, or both, of the representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent. A lawyer may provide limited representation to pro se parties as permitted by C.R.C.P. 11(b) and C.R.C.P. 311(b).

Relevant Comments:

[6] The scope of services to be provided by a lawyer may be limited by agreement with the client or by the terms under which the lawyer’s services are made available to the client. When a lawyer has been retained by an insurer to represent an insured, for example, the representation may be limited to matters related to the insurance coverage. A limited representation may be appropriate because the client has limited objectives for the representation. In addition, the terms upon which representation is undertaken may exclude specific means that might otherwise be used to accomplish the client’s objectives. Such limitations may exclude actions that the client thinks are too costly or that the lawyer regards as repugnant or imprudent.

[7] Although this Rule affords the lawyer and client substantial latitude to limit the representation, the limitation must be reasonable under the circumstances. If, for example, a client’s objective is limited to securing general information about the law the client needs in order to handle a common and typically uncomplicated legal problem, the lawyer and client may agree that the lawyer’s services will be limited to a brief telephone consultation. Such a limitation, however, would not be reasonable if the time allotted was not sufficient to yield advice upon which the client could rely. Although an agreement for a limited representation does not exempt a lawyer from the duty to provide competent representation, the limitation is a factor to be considered when determining the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation. See Rule 1.1.

[8] All agreements concerning a lawyer’s representation of a client must accord with the Rules of Professional Conduct and other law. See, e.g., Rules 1.1, 1.8 and 5.6.

Modified By:

Colo. Ethics Op. 101 (1998) (“lawyer engaged in unbundled legal services must clearly explain the limitations of the representation, including the types of services which are not being provided and the probable effect of limited representation”)

UPDATE: Colorado Revises Ethics Opinion 101 on Unbundling (2016)

The Colorado Bar Association’s Ethics Committee has revised Formal Opinion 101 addressing the unbundling of legal services. The new, more comprehensive Opinion discusses the provisions of Colorado RPC 1.2(c) that expressly allow limited scope representation, related rules that enable lawyers to provide limited scope representation and to ghostwrite pleadings and briefs, and other rules of professional conduct that lawyers engaged in limited scope representation must follow. The Ethics Committee originally adopted Formal Opinion 101 in 1998, and the new Opinion 101 discusses the increased use of unbundling throughout the state and country since then.

Colo. Ethics Op. 115 (2007) (limitation impermissible because “course of action that ‘reasonably should be pursued on behalf of the client,’ [that is, representation in litigation] is foreclosed to the lawyer”)

Colo. R. Civ. P. 11(b) (“An attorney may . . . provide limited representation in accordance with Colo. RPC 1.2 to a pro se party involved in a court proceeding. Pleadings or papers filed by the pro se party that were prepared with the drafting assistance of the attorney shall include the attorney’s name, address, telephone number and registration number”)

Johnson v. Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs, 868 F. Supp. 1226 (D. Colo. 1994) (practice of ghostwriting pleadings may subject lawyer to contempt of court “irrespective of the degree to which it is considered unprofessional by the governing bodies of the bar”)

Johnson v. Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs, 85 F.3d 489 (10th Cir. 1996) (although separate representation permissible for government official sued in both official and individual capacity, lawyer may limit representation to official capacity only if he consults with client about his exposure in his individual capacity and client consents to limitation)

ABA Rule 5.4(a) (Fee-sharing)

Rule 5.4. Professional Independence of a Lawyer

(a) A lawyer or law firm shall not share legal fees  with a nonlawyer, except that:

(1) an agreement by a lawyer with the lawyer’s firm, partner, or associate may provide for the payment of money, over a reasonable period of time after the lawyer’s death, to the lawyer’s estate or to one or more specified persons;

(2) a lawyer who undertakes to complete unfinished legal business of a deceased lawyer may pay to the estate of the deceased lawyer that proportion of the total compensation which fairly represents the services rendered by the deceased lawyer;

(3) a lawyer who purchases the practice of a deceased, disabled, or disappeared lawyer may, pursuant to the provisions of Rule 1.17, pay to the estate or other representative of that lawyer the agreed-upon purchase price;

(4) a lawyer or law firm may include nonlawyer employees in a compensation or retirement plan, even though the plan is based in whole or in part on a profit-sharing arrangement; and

(5) a lawyer may share court-awarded legal fees with a nonprofit organization that employed, retained or recommend employment of the lawyer in the matter.

Relevant Comments:

[1] The provisions of this Rule express traditional limitations on sharing fees. These limitations are to protect the lawyer’s professional independence of judgment on behalf of the lawyer’s client. Moreover, since a lawyer should not aid or encourage a nonlawyer to practice law, the lawyer should not practice law or otherwise share legal fees with a nonlawyer. This does not mean, however, that the pecuniary value of the interest of a deceased lawyer in the lawyer’s firm or practice may not be paid to the lawyer’s estate or specified persons such as the lawyer’s spouse or heirs. In like manner, profit-sharing retirement plans of a lawyer or law firm which include nonlawyer office employees are not improper. These limited exceptions to the rule against sharing legal fees with nonlawyers are permissible since they do not aid or encourage nonlawyers to practice law. Where someone other than the client pays the lawyer’s fee or salary, or recommends employment of the lawyer, that arrangement does not modify the lawyer’s obligation to the client. As stated in paragraph (c) such arrangements should not interfere with the lawyer’s professional judgment on behalf of the lawyer’s client. A lawyer should, however, make full disclosure of such arrangements to the client; and if the lawyer or client believes that the effectiveness of lawyer’s representation has been or will be impaired thereby, the lawyer should take proper steps to withdraw from representation of the client.

Modified by:

Colo. Informal Ethics Op. 00/01-02 (2001) (may give nonlawyer employees bonuses based upon firm’s earnings in excess of preset levels of income or net profits, allocated according to each employee’s regular compensation or length of service)

People v. Easley, 956 P.2d 1257 (Colo. 1998) (en banc) (lawyer in sexual harassment case offered to share contingent fee with investigator and psychological counselor)

ABA Rule 5.4(b – d) Non-lawyer ownership

Rule 5.4. Professional Independence of a Lawyer


(d)A lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a professional company that is authorized to practice law for a profit, if

(1) A nonlawyer owns any interest therein, except that a fiduciary representative of the estate of a lawyer may hold the stock or interest of the lawyer for a reasonable time during administration; or

(2) A nonlawyer has the right to direct or control the professional judgment of a lawyer.

(e)A lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a professional company that is authorized to practice law for a profit except in compliance with C.R.C.P. 265.

(f) For purposes of this Rule, a “nonlawyer” includes

(1)a lawyer who has been disbarred,

(2)a lawyer who has been suspended and who must petition for reinstatement,

(3) a lawyer who has been immediately suspended pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.8 or 251.20(d),

(4) a lawyer who is on inactive status pursuant to C.R.C.P. 227(A)(6), or

(5) a lawyer who, for a period of six months or more, has been

(i) on disability inactive status pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.23 or

(ii)suspended pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.8.5, 227(A)(4), 260.6, or 251.8.6.

Relevant Comments:

[2] To assist a lawyer in preserving independence, a number of courses are available, For example, a lawyer may practice law in the form of a professional company, if in doing so the lawyer complies with all applicable rules of the Colorado Supreme Court. Although a lawyer may be employed by a business corporation with nonlawyers serving as directors or officers, and they necessarily have the right to make decisions of business policy, a lawyer must decline to accept direction of the lawyer’s professional judgment from any nonlawyer. Various types of legal aid offices are administered by boards of directors composed of lawyers and nonlawyers. A lawyer should not accept employment from such an organization unless the board sets only broad policies and there is no interference in the relationship of the lawyer and the individual client the lawyer serves. Where a lawyer is employed by an organization, a written agreement that defines the relationship between the. Lawyer and the organization and provides for the lawyer’s independence is desirable since it may serve to prevent misunderstanding as to their respective roles. Although other innovations in the means of supplying legal counsel may develop, the responsibility of the lawyer to maintain the lawyer’s professional independence remains constant, and the legal profession must insure that changing circumstances do not result in loss of the professional independence of the lawyer.

[3] As part of the legal profession’s commitment to the principle that high quality legal services should be available to all, lawyers are encouraged to cooperate with qualified legal assistance organizations providing prepaid legal services. Participation should at all times be in accordance with the basic tenets of the profession: independence, integrity, competence, and devotion to the interests of individual clients. A lawyer so participating should make certain that a relationship with a qualified legal assistance organization in no way interferes with the lawyer’s independent professional representation of the interests of the individual client. A lawyer should avoid situations in which officials of the organization who are not lawyers attempt to direct lawyers concerning the manner in which legal services are performed for individual members, and should also avoid situations in which considerations of economy are given undue weight in determining the lawyers employed by an organization or the legal services to be performed for the member or beneficiary rather than competence and quality of service. A lawyer interested in maintaining the historic traditions of the profession and preserving the function of a lawyer as a trusted and independent advisor to individual members of society should carefully assess those factors when accepting employment by, or otherwise participating in, a particular qualified legal assistance organization, and while so participating should adhere to the highest professional standards of effort and competence.

ABA Rule 5.5 (UPL)

Rule 5.5. Unauthorized Practice of Law; Multijurisdictional Practice of Law

(a) A lawyer shall not:

(1) practice law in this jurisdiction without a license to practice law issued by the Colorado Supreme Court unless specifically authorized by C.R.C.P. 204 or C.R.C.P. 205 or federal or tribal law;

(2) practice law in a jurisdiction where doing so violates the regulations of the legal profession in that jurisdiction;

(3) assist a person who is not authorized to practice law pursuant to subpart (a) of this Rule in the performance of any activity that constitutes the unauthorized practice of law; or

(4) allow the name of a disbarred lawyer or a suspended lawyer who must petition for reinstatement to remain in the firm name.

(b) A lawyer shall not employ, associate professionally with, allow or aid a person the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is a disbarred, suspended, or on disability inactive status to perform the following on behalf of the lawyer’s client:

(1) render legal consultation or advice to the client;

(2) appear on behalf of a client in any hearing or proceeding or before any judicial officer, arbitrator, mediator, court, public agency, referee, magistrate, commissioner, or hearing officer;

(3) appear on behalf of a client at a deposition or other discovery matter;

(4) negotiate or transact any matter for or on behalf of the client with third parties;

(5) otherwise engage in activities that constitute the practice of law; or

(6) receive, disburse or otherwise handle client funds.

(c) Subject to the limitation set forth below in paragraph (d), a lawyer may employ, associate professionally with, allow or aid a lawyer who is disbarred, suspended (whose suspension is partially or fully served), or on disability inactive status to perform research, drafting or clerical activities, including but not limited to:

(1) legal work of a preparatory nature, such as legal research, the assemblage of data and other necessary information, drafting of pleadings, briefs, and other similar documents;

(2) direct communication with the client or third parties regarding matters such as scheduling, billing, updates, confirmation of receipt or sending of correspondence and messages; and

(3) accompanying an active member in attending a deposition or other discovery matter for the limited purpose of providing assistance to the lawyer who will appear as the representative of the client.

(d) A lawyer shall not allow a person the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is disbarred, suspended, or on disability inactive status to have any professional contact with clients of the lawyer or of the lawyer’s firm unless the lawyer:

(1) prior to the commencement of the work, gives written notice to the client for whom the work will be performed that the disbarred or suspended lawyer, or the lawyer on disability inactive status, may not practice law; and

(2) retains written notification for no less than two years following completion of the work.

(e) Once notice is given pursuant to C.R.C.P. 251.28 or this Rule, then no additional notice is required.

Modified By:

In re Boyer, 988 P.2d 625 (Colo. 1999) (suspended lawyer engaged in unauthorized practice by analyzing value of clients’ personal injury claims, negotiating with insurer regarding claims, giving advice, and collecting attorneys’ fees)

In re Thomas, 387 B.R. 808 (D. Colo. 2008) (nonlawyer’s taking assignment of creditor’s debt for collection in bankruptcy may still be unauthorized practice if “[a]ssignee promises to share the proceeds” with assignor)

Koscove v. Bolte, 30 P.3d 784 (Colo. Ct. App. 2001) (lawyer licensed in Wisconsin who lived in Colorado and, before being admitted pro hac vice, investigated and pursued client’s claim for royalty payments and assisted in contemplated lawsuit in Colorado, engaged in unauthorized practice of law.

People v. Adams, 243 P.3d 256 (Colo. 2010)

People v. Cassidy, 884 P.2d 309 (Colo. 1994) (lawyer on inactive status continued selling living trust packages)

People v. Laden, 893 P.2d 771 (Colo. 1995)

People v. Love, 775 P.2d 26 (Colo. 1989) (nonlawyer who engaged in unauthorized practice by preparing legal documents for clients for fee and representing clients in court enjoined from continuing such activities and ordered to make restitution of all fees received)

People v. Mason, 212 P.3d 141 (Colo. O.P.D.J. 2009) (lawyer violated suspension order by providing legal advice to one client and preparing documents for another, even though he told them he was not a lawyer)

People v. Shell, 148 P.3d 162 (Colo. 2006) (court rule defining unauthorized practice not too vague to comport with due process)

Unauthorized Practice of Law Comm. v. Employers Unity Inc., 716 P.2d 460 (Colo. 1986) (permitting nonlawyers to represent parties in unemployment compensation hearings)

Unauthorized Practice of Law Comm. v. Grimes, 654 P.2d 822 (Colo. 1982) (“The purpose of the bar and our admission requirements is to protect the public from unqualified individuals who charge fees for providing incompetent legal advice”)

Other Definitions:

Koscove v. Bolte, 30 P.3d 784 (Colo.App. 2001) (While acknowledging the difficulty of giving an all-inclusive definition of the practice of law, the supreme court has defined it as follows: We believe that generally one who acts in a representative capacity in protecting, enforcing, or defending the legal rights and duties of another and in counseling, advising and assisting him in connection with these rights and duties is engaged in the practice of law. Denver Bar Ass’n v. Public Utilities Commission, 154 Colo. 273, 279, 391 P.2d 467, 471 (1964). See also C.R.C.P. 201.3(2).)

COLORADO COURT RULES GOVERNING ADMISSION TO THE BAR

CHAPTER 18. RULES GOVERNING ADMISSION TO THE BAR

RULE 201.3. CLASSIFICATION OF APPLICANTS

Rule 201.3(2)

(2) For purposes of this rule, “practice of law” means:

(a) the private practice of law as a sole practitioner or as a lawyer employee of or partner or shareholder in a law firm, professional corporation, legal clinic, legal services office, or similar entity; or

(b) employment as a lawyer for a corporation, partnership, trust, individual, or other entity with the primary duties of:

(i) furnishing legal counsel, drafting documents and pleadings, and interpreting and giving advice with respect to the law, and/or

(ii) preparing, trying or presenting cases before courts, executive departments, administrative bureaus or agencies; or

(c) employment as a lawyer in the law offices of the executive, legislative, or judicial departments of the United States, including the independent agencies thereof, or of any state, political subdivision of a state, territory, special district, or municipality of the United States, with the primary duties of

(i) furnishing legal counsel, drafting documents and pleadings, and interpreting and giving advice with respect to the law, and/or

(ii) preparing, trying or presenting cases before courts, executive departments, administrative bureaus or agencies; or

(d) employment as a judge, magistrate, hearing examiner, administrative law judge, law clerk, or similar official of the United States, including the independent agencies thereof, or of any state, territory or municipality of the United States with the duties of hearing and deciding cases and controversies in judicial or administrative proceedings, provided such employment is available only to a lawyer; or

(e) employment as a teacher of law at a law school approved by the American Bar Association throughout the applicant’s employment; or

(f) any combination of subparagraphs (a)-(e) above.

ABA Rule 5.7 (Law Related Services)

Same as Model Rule

Relevant Comments:

[1] When a lawyer performs law-related services or controls an organization that does so, there exists the potential for ethical problems. Principal among these is the possibility that the person for whom the law-related services are performed fails to understand that the services may not carry with them the protections normally afforded as part of the client-lawyer relationship. The recipient of the law-related services may expect, for example, that the protection of client confidences, prohibitions against representation of persons with conflicting interests, and obligations of a lawyer to maintain professional independence apply to the provision of law-related services when that may not be the case.

[2] Rule 5.7 applies to the provision of law-related services by a lawyer even when the lawyer does not provide any legal services to the person for whom the law-related services are performed and whether the law-related services are performed through a law firm or a separate entity. The Rule identifies the circumstances in which all of the Rules of Professional Conduct apply to the provision of law-related services. Even when those circumstances do not exist, however, the conduct of a lawyer involved in the provision of law-related services is subject to those Rules that apply generally to lawyer conduct, regardless of whether the conduct involves the provision of legal services. See, e.g., Rule 8.4.

[3] When law-related services are provided by a lawyer under circumstances that are not distinct from the lawyer’s provision of legal services to clients, the lawyer in providing the law-related services must adhere to the requirements of the Rules of Professional Conduct as provided in paragraph (a)(1). Even when the law-related and legal services are provided in circumstances that are distinct from each other, for example through separate entities or different support staff within the law firm, the Rules of Professional Conduct apply to the lawyer as provided in paragraph (a)(2) unless the lawyer takes reasonable measures to assure that the recipient of the law-related services knows that the services are not legal services and that the protections of the client-lawyer relationship do not apply.

[4] Law-related services also may be provided through an entity that is distinct from that through which the lawyer provides legal services. If the lawyer individually or with others has control of such an entity’s operations, the Rule requires the lawyer to take reasonable measures to assure that each person using the services of the entity knows that the services provided by the entity are not legal services and that the Rules of Professional Conduct that relate to the client-lawyer relationship do not apply. A lawyer’s control of an entity extends to the ability to direct its operation. Whether a lawyer has such control will depend upon the circumstances of the particular case.

[5] When a client-lawyer relationship exists with a person who is referred by a lawyer to a separate law-related service entity controlled by the lawyer, individually or with others, the lawyer must comply with Rule 1.8(a).

[6] In taking the reasonable measures referred to in paragraph (a)(2) to assure that a person using law-related services understands the practical effect or significance of the inapplicability of the Rules of Professional Conduct, the lawyer should communicate to the person receiving the law-related services, in a manner sufficient to assure that the person understands the significance of the fact, that the relationship of the person to the business entity will not be a client-lawyer relationship. The communication should be made before entering into an agreement for provision of or providing law-related services, and preferably should be in writing.

[7] The burden is upon the lawyer to show that the lawyer has taken reasonable measures under the circumstances to communicate the desired understanding. For instance, a sophisticated user of law-related services, such as a publicly held corporation, may require a lesser explanation than someone unaccustomed to making distinctions between legal services and law-related services, such as an individual seeking tax advice from a lawyer-accountant or investigative services in connection with a lawsuit.

[8] Regardless of the sophistication of potential recipients of law-related services, a lawyer should take special care to keep separate the provision of law-related and legal services in order to minimize the risk that the recipient will assume that the law-related services are legal services. The risk of such confusion is especially acute when the lawyer renders both types of services with respect to the same matter. Under some circumstances the legal and law-related services may be so closely entwined that they cannot be distinguished from each other, and the requirement of disclosure and consultation imposed by paragraph (a)(2) of the Rule cannot be met. In such a case a lawyer will be responsible for assuring that both the lawyer’s conduct and, to the extent required by Rule 5.3, that of nonlawyer employees in the distinct entity that the lawyer controls complies in all respects with the Rules of Professional Conduct.

[9] A broad range of economic and other interests of clients maybe served by lawyers’ engaging in the delivery of law-related services. Examples of law-related services include providing title insurance, financial planning, accounting, trust services, real estate counseling, legislative lobbying, economic analysis, social work, psychological counseling, tax preparation, and patent, medical or environmental consulting.

[10] When a lawyer is obliged to accord the recipients of such services the protections of those Rules that apply to the client-lawyer relationship, the lawyer must take special care to heed the proscriptions of the Rules addressing conflict of interest (Rules 1.7 through 1.11, especially Rules 1.7(a)(2) and 1.8(a), (b) and (f)), and to scrupulously adhere to the requirements of Rule 1.6 relating to disclosure of confidential information. The promotion of the law-related services must also in all respects comply with Rules 7.1 through 7.3, dealing with advertising and solicitation. In that regard, lawyers should take special care to identify the obligations that may be imposed as a result of a jurisdiction’s decisional law.

[11] When the full protections of all of the Rules of Professional Conduct do not apply to the provision of law-related services, principles of law external to the Rules, for example, the law of principal and agent, govern the legal duties owed to those receiving the services. Those other legal principles may establish a different degree of protection for the recipient with respect to confidentiality of information, conflicts of interest and permissible business relationships with clients. See also Rule 8.4 (Misconduct).

ABA Rule 6.5 (Court annexed/Non-profit limited scope)

Same as Model Rule

Relevant Comments:

[1] Legal services organizations, courts and various nonprofit organizations have established programs through which lawyers provide short-term limited legal services — such as advice or the completion of legal forms that will assist persons to address their legal problems without further representation by a lawyer. In these programs, such as legal-advice hotlines, advice-only clinics or pro se counseling programs, a client-lawyer relationship is established, but there is no expectation that the lawyer’s representation of the client will continue beyond the limited consultation. Such programs are normally operated under circumstances in which it is not feasible for a lawyer to systematically screen for conflicts of interest as is generally required before undertaking a representation. See, e.g., Rules 1.7, 1.9 and 1.10.

[2] A lawyer who provides short-term limited legal services pursuant to this Rule must secure the client’s informed consent to the limited scope of the representation. See Rule 1.2(c). If a short-term limited representation would not be reasonable under the circumstances, the lawyer may offer advice to the client but must also advise the client of the need for further assistance of counsel. Except as provided in this Rule, the Rules of Professional Conduct, including Rules 1.6 and 1.9(c), are applicable to the limited representation.

[3] Because a lawyer who is representing a client in the circumstances addressed by this Rule ordinarily is not able to check systematically for conflicts of interest, paragraph (a) requires compliance with Rules 1.7 or 1.9(a) only if the lawyer knows that the representation presents a conflict of interest for the lawyer, and with Rule 1.10 only if the lawyer knows that another lawyer in the lawyer’s firm is disqualified by Rules 1.7 or 1.9(a) in the matter.

[4] Because the limited nature of the services significantly reduces the risk of conflicts of interest with other matters being handled by the lawyer’s firm, paragraph (b) provides that Rule 1.10 is inapplicable to a representation governed by this Rule except as provided by paragraph (a)(2). Paragraph (a)(2) requires the participating lawyer to comply with Rule 1.10 when the lawyer knows that the lawyer’s firm is disqualified by Rules 1.7 or 1.9(a). By virtue of paragraph (b), however, a lawyer’s participation in a short-term limited legal services program will not preclude the lawyer’s firm from undertaking or continuing the representation of a client with interests adverse to a client being represented under the program’s auspices. Nor will the personal disqualification of a lawyer participating in the program be imputed to other lawyers participating in the program.

[5] If, after commencing a short-term limited representation in accordance with this Rule, a lawyer undertakes to represent the client in the matter on an ongoing basis, Rules 1.7, 1.9(a) and 1.10 become applicable.

ABA Rule 7.2(b) (Lawyer referral)

Rule 7.2. Advertising


(b) A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services except that a lawyer may

(1) pay the reasonable costs of communications permitted by this Rule;

(2) pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit lawyer referral service or legal service organization.

(3) pay for a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.17 ; and

(4) refer clients to another lawyer or a nonlawyer pursuant to an agreement not otherwise prohibited under these Rules that provides for the other person to refer clients or customers to the lawyer, if

(i) the reciprocal referral agreement is not exclusive, and

(ii) the client is informed of the existence and nature of the agreement.

Relevant Comments:

[5] Except as permitted under paragraphs (b)(1)-(b)(4), lawyers are not permitted to pay others for recommending the lawyer’s services or for channeling professional work in a manner that violates Rule 7.3. A communication contains a recommendation if it endorses or vouches for a lawyer’s credentials, abilities, competence, character, or other professional qualities. Paragraph (b)(1), however, allows a lawyer to pay for advertising and communications permitted by this Rule, including the costs of print directory listings, on-line directory listings, newspaper ads, television and radio airtime, domain-name registrations, sponsorship fees, Internet-based advertisements, and group advertising. A lawyer may compensate employees, agents and vendors who are engaged to provide marketing or client-development services, such as publicists, public-relations personnel, business-development staff and website designers. Moreover, a lawyer may pay others for generating client leads, such as Internet-based client leads, as long as the lead generator does not recommend the lawyer, any payment to the lead generator is consistent with Rules 1.5(e) (division of fees) and 5.4 (professional independence of the lawyer), and the lead generator’s communications are consistent with Rule 7.1 (communications concerning a lawyer’s services). To comply with Rule 7.1, a lawyer must not pay a lead generator that states, implies, or creates a reasonable impression that it is recommending the lawyer, is making the referral without payment from the lawyer, or has analyzed a person’s legal problems when determining which lawyer should receive the referral. See also Rule 5.3 (duties of lawyers and law firms with respect to the conduct of nonlawyers); Rule 8.4 (a) (duty to avoid violating the Rules through the acts of another).

[6] A lawyer may pay the usual charges of a legal service plan or a not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service. A legal service plan is a prepaid or group legal service plan or a similar delivery system that assists people who seek to secure legal representation. A lawyer referral service, on the other hand, is any organization that holds itself out to the public as a lawyer referral service. Such referral services are understood by the public to be consumer-oriented organizations that provide unbiased referrals to lawyers with appropriate experience in the subject matter of the representation and afford other client protections, such as complaint procedures or malpractice insurance requirements. Consequently, this Rule only permits a lawyer to pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service. A qualified lawyer referral service is one that is approved by an appropriate regulatory authority as affording adequate protections for the public . See, e.g., the American Bar Association’s Model Supreme Court Rules Governing Lawyer Referral Services and Model Lawyer Referral and Information Service Quality Assurance Act (requiring that organizations that are identified as lawyer referral services (i) permit the participation of all lawyers who are licensed and eligible to practice in the jurisdiction and who meet reasonable objective eligibility requirements as may be established by the referral service for the protection of prospective clients; (ii) require each participating lawyer to carry reasonably adequate malpractice insurance; (iii) act reasonably to assess client satisfaction and address client complaints; and (iv) do not make referrals to lawyers who own, operate or are employed by the referral service).

[7] A lawyer who accepts assignments or referrals from a legal service plan or referrals from a lawyer referral service must act reasonably to assure that the activities of the plan or service are compatible with the lawyer’s professional obligations. See Rule 5.3. Legal service plans and lawyer referral services may communicate with the public, but such communication must be in conformity with these Rules. Thus, advertising must not be false or misleading, as would be the case if the communications of a group advertising program or a group legal services plan would mislead the public to think that it was a lawyer referral service sponsored by a state agency or bar association. Nor could the lawyer allow in-person, telephonic, or real-time contacts that would violate Rule 7.3.

[8] A lawyer also may agree to refer clients to another lawyer or a nonlawyer in return for the undertaking of that person to refer clients or customers to the lawyer. Such reciprocal referral arrangements must not interfere with the lawyer’s professional judgment as to making referrals or as to providing substantive legal services. See Rules 2.1 and 5.4(c). Except as provided in Rule 1.5(d), a lawyer who receives referrals from a lawyer or nonlawyer must not pay anything solely for the referral, but the lawyer does not violate paragraph (b) of this Rule by agreeing to refer clients to the other lawyer or nonlawyer, so long as the reciprocal referral agreement is not exclusive and the client is informed of the referral agreement. Conflicts of interest created by such arrangements are governed by Rule 1.7. Reciprocal referral agreements should not be of indefinite duration and should be reviewed periodically to determine whether they comply with these Rules. This Rule does not restrict referrals or divisions of revenues or net income among lawyers within firms comprised of multiple entities.

Modified by:

Colo. Ethics Op. 122 (2010) (discussing characteristics of permissible internet lawyer marketing and referral programs)

People v. Shipp, 793 P.2d 574 (Colo. 1990) (suspending lawyer for paying his inmate client to refer other inmates to him)

People v. Zimmerman, 938 P.2d 131 (Colo. 1997) (en banc) (public censure for lawyer who violated Rule 7.2 by paying monthly installments to, and advertising with, for-profit referral agency not approved by state bar association)

Cloud Computing

No advisory opinions.

Technology Competency

Comment to Rule 1.1

Maintaining Competence

To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, and changes in communications and other relevant technologies, engage in continuing study and education, and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.