In 2011, the president of the Florida Bar appointed a special committee to review “whether and to what extent [the bar] can or should directly regulate” for-profit lawyer referral services. The study was prompted by what the bar described as the “dramatic growth” of such entities in recent years, and by “numerous complaints” about the allegedly “misleading nature of their activities.” The committee's final report recommended that the bar's board of governors petition the supreme court for rule changes that would prohibit lawyers from accepting referrals from certain types of referral services. The board eventually adopted less restrictive proposals that wouldn't forbid lawyers to accept referrals. However, at the end of last month, the Florida supreme court rejected the bar's proposals as insufficient. “The dangers that non-lawyer-owned, for-profit referral services pose to members of the public—who may be especially vulnerable after they suffer an injury, or when they face a legal matter that they never anticipated—leads us to conclude that much stricter regulations upon lawyer referral services are required than those proposed by the Bar,” it said.
The ABA/BNA Lawyers Manual on Professional Conduct has the full story at 31 Law. Man. Prof. Conduct 584. The Legal Profession blog has more here. Lawyer Ethics Alert Blog has more here.