Atlanta June 9, 2004

The Honorable Supreme Court met pursuant to adjournment.

The following order was passed:

It is ordered that Rule 4-102 (d) of the Rules and Regulations for the Organization and Government of the State Bar of Georgia be hereby amended by amending Rule 5.4 to add a new section 5.4 (a) (5), by amending Rule 7.3 by adding a new section 7.3 (c) (2) and renumbering former subsections 2 through 4 as 3 through 5, and by amending comment [7] accordingly. It is further ordered that Subsection (1) of Rule 8-104 (D), regarding trial experience, be deleted, and that the designation of the remainder of Rule 8-104 (D) as subsection “(2)” be removed. As amended, said rules are to read as follows:

RULE 5.4 PROFESSIONAL INDEPENDENCE OF A LAWYER

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

(5) a lawyer may pay a referral fee to a bar-operated non-profit lawyer referral service where such fee is calculated as a percentage of legal fees earned by the lawyer to whom the service has referred a matter pursuant to Rule 7.3. Direct Contact with Prospective Clients.

RULE 7.3 DIRECT CONTACT WITH PROSPECTIVE CLIENTS

(c) A lawyer shall not compensate or give anything of value to a person or organization to recommend or secure the lawyer’s employment by a client, or as a reward for having made a recommendation resulting in the lawyer’s employment by a client; except that the lawyer may pay for public communications permitted by Rule 7.1 and except as follows:

(1) A lawyer may pay the usual and reasonable fees or dues charged by a bona fide lawyer referral service operated by an organization authorized by law and qualified to do business in this state provided, however, such organization has filed with the State Disciplinary Board, at least annually, a report showing its terms, its subscription charges, agreements with counsel, the number of lawyers participating, and the names and addresses of lawyers participating in the service;

(2) A lawyer may pay the usual and reasonable fees or dues charged by a bar-operated non-profit lawyer referral service, including a fee which is calculated as a percentage of the legal fees earned by the lawyer to whom the service has referred a matter, provided such bar-operated non-profit lawyer referral service meets the following criteria:

(i) the lawyer referral service shall be operated in the public interest for the purpose of referring prospective clients to lawyers, pro bono and public service legal programs, and government, consumer or other agencies who can provide the assistance the clients need. Such organization shall file annually with the State Disciplinary Board a report showing its rules and regulations, its subscription charges, agreements with counsel, the number of lawyers participating and the names and addresses of the lawyers participating in the service;

(ii) the sponsoring bar association for the lawyer referral service must be open to all lawyers licensed and eligible to practice in this state who maintain an office within the geographical area served, and who meet reasonable objectively determinable experience requirements established by the bar association;

(iii) The combined fees charged by a lawyer and the lawyer referral service to a client referred by such service shall not exceed the total charges which the client would have paid had no service been involved; and,

(iv) A lawyer who is a member of the qualified lawyer referral service must maintain in force a policy of errors and omissions insurance in an amount no less than $100,000 per occurrence and $300,000 in the aggregate.

(3) A lawyer may pay the usual and reasonable fees to a qualified legal services plan or insurer providing legal services insurance as authorized by law to promote the use of the lawyer’s services, the lawyer’s partner or associate’s services so long as the communications of the organization are not false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading;

(4) A lawyer may pay the usual and reasonable fees charged by a lay public relations or marketing organization provided the activities of such organization on behalf of the lawyer are otherwise in accordance with these Rules.

(5) A lawyer may pay for a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.17: Sale of Law Practice.

The maximum penalty for a violation of this Rule is disbarment.

Comment

Paying Others to Recommend a Lawyer

[7] A lawyer is allowed to pay for communications permitted by these Rules, but otherwise is not permitted to pay another person for channeling professional work. This restriction does not prevent an organization or person other than the lawyer from advertising or recommending the lawyer’s services. Thus, a legal aid agency, a prepaid legal services plan or prepaid legal insurance organization may pay to advertise legal services provided under its auspices. Likewise, a lawyer may participate in lawyer referral programs and pay the usual fees charged by such programs, provided the programs are in compliance with the registration requirements of sub-paragraph (c)(1) or (c)(2) of this Rule 7.3: Direct Contact with Prospective Clients and the communications and practices of the organization are not deceptive or misleading.

Rule 8-104. Education Requirements and Exemptions

(D) Requirements for Participation in Litigation. Each active member who appears as sole or lead counsel in the Superior or State Courts of Georgia in any contested civil case or in the trial of a criminal case in 1990 or in any subsequent calendar year, shall complete for such year a minimum of three (3) hours of continuing legal education activity in the area of trial practice. A trial practice CLE activity is one exclusively limited to one or more of the following subjects: evidence, civil practice and procedure, criminal practice and procedure, ethics and professionalism in litigation, or trial advocacy. These hours are to be included in, and not in addition to, the 12-hour (twelve) requirement. If a member completes more than three (3) trial practice hours, the excess trial practice credit may be carried forward and applied to the trial practice requirement for the succeeding year only.