Both law students and practicing attorneys will tell you the best way to get employment or clients is either networking or referrals. This week, they may have to add a third option: an app.
Jammed Up is currently a website that will be launching soon for IPhone, Android and Blackberry. Its slogan is “When trouble finds you, you find us!” The site positions itself as a way to easily find a lawyer if you are arrested, merely scroll through the app or website and select one. There are currently 200,000 lawyer listings nationwide, and the site also includes listings for bail bondsmen and private investigators.
The website and future app was co-founded by a bail bondsman and a cement flooring contractor from the Bronx. Michael Falzono, one of the founders, stated they are trying to “be an urban legal website for the everyday person.”
Lawyers are bound by ethical rules of professional responsibility. One of the major rules concerns solicitation. The American Bar Associations’ Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.3 states, in relevant part:
“(a) A lawyer shall not by in‑person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact solicit professional employment when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain, unless the person contacted:
(1) is a lawyer; or
(2) has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.”
As stated above, referrals from previous clients or friends and family have been the norm for lawyers. Jammed Up, however, seeks to change that. It seems the app and its legal listings come into direct conflict with Rule 7.3, which serves as a model rule to most of the 50 states ethical rules. I would argue being listed on the app could equate to electronic contact for solicitation e.g. Facebook messaging . Why else would you be listed on Jammed Up? However, there is an argument that since it would be prospective clients that would be reaching out to the attorneys, there is no solicitation.
Social media and mobile apps are a continuing trend that the ethical rules have not caught up with. While old laws may be adequate to prosecute new crimes, the old ethical rules do not address emerging technology in a way that they should.