Indiana lawyer sanctioned because he used a referral website that violated ethics advertising rules

In Re Anonymous, No. 45S00-1301-DI-33 (IND, April 11, 2014)

On April 11, 2014 the Indiana Supreme Court concluded that an Indiana attorney (whose name was not disclosed – “Anonymous”) should be privately reprimanded because of his affiliation with a referral website (“Law Tigers”) that posted testimonials and distributed promotional material that did not contain an office address for the lawyer. In Re Anonymous, No. 45S00-1301-DI-33 (IND, April 11, 2014).

Law Tigers is run by the American Association of Motorcycle Injuries Lawyers, a for-profit corporation which licenses to lawyers the trademarks and logos that it owns with territorial exclusivity. Anonymous contracted a license for Indiana. Under the license, if AAMIL received a telephone call from a potential client for Indiana, it had a duty to route that telephone call directly to Anonymous. Law Tigers identified Anonymous as the exclusive referent for Indiana. Law Tigers website contained several testimonials. AAMIL also distributed “promotional backers” with the name of Anonymous but without the indication of his office address.

The court found that

“under the totality of the circumstances of this case … the average viewer would not differentiate between … [Anonymous] and the statements about Law Tigers on the AAMIL website and that … [Anonymous] is therefore responsible for objectionable content on the website”.

The Court found that the website contained content (testimonials) that is prohibited by the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct. Anonymous was sanctioned for violation of Rule 7.1, 7.2(d).

The Court also sanctioned Anonymous for issuing communications (the promotional backers) which did not list Anonymous’ office address, as required by Rule 7.2(c).

As for the other charges (accepting referral from unqualified referral source in violation of Rule 7.3(d); giving something of value for a recommendation in violation of Rule 7.3(e); use of an improper trademark in violation of Rule 7.5(a)(4)), the Court found that they were not established.

Rules: Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct 7.1, 7.2(c), 7.3(d), 7.3(e), 7.5(a)(4)

Full decision available at…

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