SOLICITATION¾ GIFTS AND ENTERTAINMENT FOR CLAIMS ADJUSTERS¾ Whether or not it is unethical for a law firm to provide gifts and entertainment for claims adjusters and representatives of its regular insurance-company clients depends upon whether solicitation of future employment is indicated by all the facts and circumstances.
1. Would it be unethical for a law firm, which handles a large volume of defense work for various insurance companies, to present Christmas gift certificates to claims adjusters and representatives of its insurance company clients?
2. Would it be unethical for such a law firm to give an annual football party for a large group of such claims adjusters and representatives, the firm renting a bus, furnishing football tickets, taking such guests to the game in another city, and supplying drinks and meals for them?
We cannot answer these questions categorically. Canon 24 condemns solicitation of professional employment, by either direct or indirect means. Whether gifts to and entertainment of clients and their employees constitute solicitation of future employment or merely an expression of personal friendship depends on all the facts and circumstances, including such factors as the value or cost of the gifts or entertainment, the personal relationships between the lawyers and the individuals involved, the insurance company rules regarding acceptance by its employees of gifts and entertainment, and the lawyer's intent. It is not uncommon for a close personal friendship to exist between a lawyer and his client or his client's representative. Certainly, in such a case, it is not unethical for the lawyer to take his friend to a football game or to dinner or to give him a modest Christmas gift. Good taste, if not ethical considerations, would cause most lawyers to limit such favors to a few close friends and to avoid such wholesale giving and lavish entertainment as might create a suspicion of soliciting employment. However generous and innocent his intentions, a lawyer's indiscriminate and widespread distribution of costly gifts or ostentatious party-hosting, when not warranted by personal relations, would tend to create the unwholesome impression among his brethren of the Bar, if not among his clients and prospective clients, that he is thereby seeking professional employment. Within reasonable limits, it is for each lawyer or law firm to decide where to draw the line; but when reasonable limits appear to be exceeded, the Bar, through its Grievance Committees, should investigate and take appropriate action after considering all the facts and circumstances. (9-0.)