A county bar association has been requested to furnish a service to students enrolled at a university located within the county. The services rendered would be solely for the benefit of students enrolled at the university. The program will be operated from the office of the dean of the university. Any lawyer of the local county bar association would have a choice of whether or not to participate in the program. A student at the university who felt he needed legal advice would request this advice through the dean of students' office at the university. Someone in the dean's office (a secretary or perhaps a volunteer student) would determine the area of law involved, and pull the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the next two attorneys on the list who have indicated that they will take referrals in this area. The student will be given this information and would be free to contact either attorney.
1. Can the program be limited to university students only? (The local bar does not have the resources to maintain a community-wide referral service.)
2. The program will be operated with little or no expense to the county bar association (because the university will actually operate the system). The plan is to charge $15.00 for a student to consult with an attorney. This fee is primarily to help eliminate unnecessary or frivolous requests for consultation. Is it ethical to charge a fee of this type? The amount will be determined from time to time by a vote of the members of the county bar association.
3. Is it ethical for a member of the county bar association who is participating in the program to be retained by a referred student?
Applicable authority to the questions are DR 2-103(E)(3), Texas Professional Ethics Opinion 371 (1975) and Tex. Rev. Civ. Stat. Ann. Art. 320d (Supp. 1987).
1. It is not unethical for the county bar association through its members to render this service for the community. This is true even though the services in this instance are limited to students attending the university, which is located in the county.
2. It is not unethical to assess a reasonable charge against the person seeking this service. The program should be operated so that the county bar association selects the attorney to render the services requested by a student of the university, and determines the amount of the fee to be paid to the attorney by the student.
3. After the initial consultation, it is not unethical for the attorney to be retained by the student to represent him as long as the person in the dean of students' office of the university tells the student, preferably in writing, that there is no obligation on the part of the student to employ the attorney.
It is not unethical for the members of the county bar association to participate in this program to assist students of the university.