Rule 7.3 Solicitation of Potential Clients



(a) A solicitation is a targeted communication initiated by or on behalf of a lawyer that is directed to a specific person and that offers to provide, or reasonably can be understood as offering to provide, legal services for a particular matter.
(b) A lawyer shall not solicit by live person-to-person contact, or permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit by live person-to-person contact on the lawyer’s behalf, professional employment from a potential client when a significant motive for doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain, unless the person contacted:

(1) is a lawyer;
(2) is a person who routinely uses for business purposes the type of legal services offered by the lawyer;
(3) is pursuant to a court-ordered class action notification; or

(4) has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.

Written Solicitation

(c) Every written, recorded, or electronic solicitation by or on behalf of a lawyer seeking professional employment from anyone 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 (b)(1)-(4). The subject matter of the proposed representation shall not be disclosed on the outside of the envelope (or self-mailing brochure) in which the communication is delivered. Unless the contents thereof include a solicitation of employment, a lawyer need not include the words “Advertising Material” when sending announcements of associations or affiliations, newsletters, brochures, and other similar communications.

Limitation on Solicitation

(d) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment from any person if:

(1) the 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, fraud, harassment, intimidation, overreaching, or undue influence; or
(3) a significant motive for the solicitation is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain and the communication concerns an action for personal injury, divorce or legal separation, worker’s compensation, wrongful death, or otherwise relates to an accident, filing of divorce or legal separation, or disaster involving the person to whom the communication is addressed or a member of that person’s family, unless the accident, filing of divorce or legal separation, or disaster occurred more than thirty (30) days prior to the mailing or transmission of the communication or the lawyer has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the person solicited.

Record Retention

(e) A copy of each written, audio, video, or electronically transmitted communication sent to a specific recipient under this Rule shall be retained by the lawyer for two years after its last dissemination along with a record of when, and to whom, it was sent.

Paying Others to Recommend a Lawyer

(f) A lawyer shall not compensate, give, or promise anything of value to a person who is not an employee or lawyer in the same law firm for the purpose of recommending or securing the services of the lawyer or the lawyer’s law firm, except that a lawyer may:

(1) pay the reasonable cost of advertisements and other communications permitted by RPC 7.1, including online group advertising;

(2) pay the usual charges of a registered intermediary organization as permitted by RPC 7.6;

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

(4) pay a sponsorship fee or a contribution to a charitable or other nonprofit organization in return for which the lawyer will be given publicity as a lawyer; and

(5) refer clients to another lawyer or a nonlawyer professional 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.



[1] 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.

[2] “Live person-to-person contact” means in-person, face-to-face, live telephone and other real-time visual or auditory person-to-person communications where the person is subject to a direct personal encounter without time for reflection. Such person-to-person contact does not include chat rooms, text messages, email, or other written communications that recipients may easily disregard. There is a potential for abuse when a solicitation involves live person-to-person contact by a lawyer with someone known to need legal services. This form of contact subjects a person to the private importuning of the trained advocate in a direct interpersonal encounter. The person, who may already feel overwhelmed by the circumstances giving rise to the need for legal services, may find it difficult to fully 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 overreaching.

[3] The use of general advertising and written, recorded, or electronic communications to transmit information from lawyer to the public, rather than live person-to-person contact, will help to assure that the information flows cleanly as well as freely. The contents of advertisements and communications permitted under RPC 7.1 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 RPC 7.1. The contents of live person-to-person contact communications 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. All solicitations permitted under this Rule must comply with the prohibition in RPC 7.1 against false and misleading communications.

[4] There is far less likelihood that a lawyer would engage in abusive practices against a former client, or a person with whom the lawyer has a 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 or is known to routinely use the type of legal services involved for business purposes. Examples include persons who routinely hire outside counsel to represent the entity; entrepreneurs who regularly engage business, employment law, or intellectual property lawyers; small business proprietors who routinely hire lawyers for lease or contract issues; and other people who routinely retain lawyers for business transactions or formations. Consequently, the general prohibition in paragraph (b) and the requirements in paragraph (c) are not applicable in those situations. Also, paragraph (b) 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 their members or beneficiaries.

[5] But even permitted forms of solicitation can be abused. Thus, any solicitation that contains information which is false or misleading within the meaning of RPC 7.1, which involves coercion, duress, or harassment within the meaning of paragraph (d)(2), or which involves contact with someone who has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer within the meaning of paragraph (d)(1), is prohibited. Moreover, if after sending a letter or other communication as permitted by RPC 7.1 the lawyer receives no response, any further effort to communicate with the recipient of the communication may violate the provisions of paragraph (d).

[6] RPC 7.3(d)(3) includes a prohibition against any solicitation of a prospective client within thirty (30) days of the filing of a complaint for divorce or legal separation involving that person, if a significant motive for the solicitation is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. Some divorce or legal separation cases involve either an alleged history of domestic violence or a potential for domestic violence. In such cases, a defendant spouse’s receipt of a lawyer’s solicitation prior to being served with the complaint can increase the risk of a violent confrontation between the parties before the statutory injunctions take effect. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-106(d) (2014) (imposing specified temporary injunctions, including “[a]n injunction restraining both parties from harassing, threatening, assaulting or abusing the other,” that take effect “[u]pon the filing of a petition for divorce or legal separation ,and upon personal service of the complaint and summons on the respondent or upon waiver and acceptance of service by the respondent”) (emphasis added). The prohibition in RPC 7.3(d)(3) against any solicitation within thirty (30) days of the filing of a complaint for divorce or legal separation is intended to reduce any such risk and to allow the plaintiff spouse in such cases to take appropriate steps to seek shelter, an order of protection, and/or any other relief that might be available.

[7] 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. 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 RPC 7.1.

[8] The requirement in paragraph (c) that certain communications be marked “Advertising Material” does not apply to communications sent in response to requests of potential clients or their spokespersons or sponsors. Nor do those requirements apply to general announcements by lawyers, including changes in personnel or office location, newsletters, brochures, and other similar communications which do not contain a solicitation of professional employment from a client known to be in need of legal services within the meaning of this Rule.

[9] Paragraph (e) of this Rule requires that a lawyer retain a copy of each written, audio, video, or electronically transmitted communication sent to a specific recipient under this Rule for two years after its last dissemination along with a record of the name of the person contacted and the person’s address, telephone number, or telecommunication address to which the communication was sent. If communications identical in content are sent to two or more persons, the lawyer may comply with this requirement by retaining a single copy of the communication together with a list of the names and addresses of the persons to whom the communications were sent.

Paying Others to Recommend a Lawyer

[10] Except as permitted under paragraphs (f)(1)-(5), lawyers are not permitted to pay others for recommending the lawyer’s services or for channeling professional work in a manner that violates RPC 7.1 and this Rule. A communication contains a recommendation if it endorses or vouches for a lawyer’s credentials, abilities, competence, character, or other professional qualities. Paragraph (f)(1), however, allows a lawyer to pay for advertising and solicitations permitted by RPC 7.1 and this Rule, including the costs of print directory listings, online 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, as long as the employees, agents, and vendors do not direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment (see RPC 5.4(c)). 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 RPCs 1.5(e) (division of fees) and 5.4 (professional independence of the lawyer), the lead generator’s communications are consistent with RPC 7.1 (communications concerning a lawyer’s services), and subject to RPC 7.6 and Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 44 if the lead generator qualifies as an intermediary organization pursuant to RPC 7.6. To comply with RPC 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 RPC 5.3 (duties of lawyers and law firms with respect to the conduct of nonlawyers); RPC 8.4(a) (duty to avoid violating the Rules through the acts of another).

[11] A lawyer also may agree to refer clients to another lawyer or a nonlawyer professional, 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 RPCs 2.1 and 5.4(c). Except as provided in RPC 1.5(e), a lawyer who receives referrals from a lawyer or nonlawyer professional must not pay anything solely for the referral, but the lawyer does not violate paragraph (f) of this Rule by agreeing to refer clients to the other lawyer or nonlawyer professional, 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 RPC 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.

Definitional Cross-References
“Fraud” See RPC 1.0(d)
“Known” See RPC 1.0(f)
“Written” See RPC 1.0(n)


“Fraud” See RPC 1.0(d)

“Known” See RPC 1.0(f)

“Written” See RPC 1.0(n)


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