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Beware Unsolicited Email from Prospective Clients

The ABA Journal has a great article called "Open Season on Email?".

The article analyzes an ethics opinion from the San Diego County Bar Association which concluded that attorneys who receive unsolicited emails from prospective clients can represent a client adverse to the sender of such email. Essentially, attorney in question received an email from the driver of a vehicle who hit the attorney’s current client. The issue was whether or not that unsolicited email precluded the attorney from representing, or continuing to represent, the current client arising out of the same auto accident.

The ethics committee, in my opinion, correctly decided that no attorney client relationship or expectation of a relationship is created by unsolicited email. The practical reality is that the internet makes communication so easy that lawyers would always be at risk of conflict of interest as a result of unsolicited emails.

Note that the lawyer in the unsolicited email even received information which would otherwise be strategically advantageous to the adverse party. Although the opinion covers a hypothetical situation, it is instructive for all attorneys who practice and market on the internet. Here is a link to the Opinion and your thoughts are welcome.



There was an online "attorney finder" service a few years ago which encouraged people to submit a description of their case which would be forwarded to all listed in their "directory". They didn't have any members signed up, so they seeded the directory with prominent firms for each state. They apparently didn't understand the distinction between a plaintiff's firm and a defense firm, though, so inquiries for Michigan were not only sent to a variety of personal injury lawyers, they also went to Dykema Gossett and Butzel Long. I can only imagine....

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