Junk Mail Advertising: A Permissible Form of Solicitation by Lawyers

Many individuals open their mailboxes each day and find it jam-packed with flyers from grocery stores, local restaurants, coupons, and more. While some may enjoy saving a dollar, the majority of Americans look for the closest trash can to dump the unwanted mail. Then, just as an individual thinks they have seen every piece of junk mail possible, they become flooded with mailings from law firms all over the state and they cannot seem to figure out why.

In many states, including West Virginia, lawyers are permitted to send mailings to individuals in an attempt to obtain clients. These law firms purchase information from companies that obtain lists of public record information, such as speeding tickets and arrests. The contact information obtained is then used as a way to potentially generate more business.

Why are Law Firms Permitted to Contact Me?

Lawyers, like every other business owner, need business to stay afloat. Therefore, the state has tried to obtain a balance between individual privacy and the business model of gathering all potential clients. The West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct governs the types of permissible contact to solicit clients. The rule is broad and provides that a lawyer may contact an individual in any way except as prohibited under the ethics rules. The rules prohibit the following types of solicitation:

  • In-person solicitation: This prevents what is commonly known as ambulance chasing, a method by which lawyers meet individuals immediately after an accident to offer their services.
  • Live telephone solicitation: Lawyers are prohibited from telephone communications.
  • real time electronic contact: Lawyers are prohibited from using email, fax, and text message to solicit business from clients.

The prohibitions listed above are also placed on a lawyer’s agent (someone acting on behalf of a lawyer) representative or employee. However, it does not prohibit an attorney from participating in legal organizations that use in-person or telephone contact to obtain memberships or subscriptions, so long as the organization is owned by someone other than the lawyer. There are a limited number of exceptions which allow a lawyer to engage in solicitation that is not otherwise permissible if they are soliciting another lawyer or if the person being solicited has a family, close personal or professional relationship with the lawyer.

Is There a Way to Stop the Junk Mail?

Unfortunately, there is no way to stop the junk mail before it is received. This applies equally to any other type of junk mail received. However, you can take some action to prevent particular firms from sending future mailings. You must notify the firm that you do not want to receive any additional mailings. Any firm that continues to send solicitation, after having knowledge of an individual’s desire for them to discontinue mailings, could be subject to disciplinary action.

Want to Learn More?

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by Colombo Law
Last updated on - Originally published on