The Permissibility (or not) of Pay Per Lead Advertising

A new type of lawyer advertising has popped up in recent months in the form of pay per lead advertising.

What is Pay Per Lead?

Under this method of advertising, a person fills out a form indicating an interest in consulting with an attorney about a certain type of case such as bankruptcy. The pay per lead service then sends that information to law firms for a specified price. Next, the law firms that pay for the information contact the prospective client and solicit their business.

Can I use this service?

A pertinent question is whether such pay per lead advertising is permissible under the ethics rules. Attorneys paying for referrals is generally impermissible. On the contrary, pay per click advertising, where attorneys pay according to the number of clicks a link to their website receives on another site, is generally permissible. So which is pay per lead more akin to?

The permissibility of pay per lead advertising is a new issue, which New Jersey is the first to address. This NJ ethics opinion  found one pay per lead program not as an impermissible attorney referral service, but rather as misleading in violation of Rule of Professional Conduct 7.1(a).

Attorneys contemplating such forms of advertisement: BEWARE.