Texas State Bar approves automated online legal matching services

The Professional Ethics Committee of the State Bar of Texas recently released Opinion 573 in support of permitting Texas lawyer participation in for-profit Internet websites that help match attorneys with people seeking legal representation.

An earlier opinion by the Texas Ethics Committee, issued in October 2005, might have been read to preclude any for-profit Internet legal services from operating in Texas. The Texas Ethics Committee has now made clear that its earlier opinion concerned only legal matching services that could exercise discretion in deciding which potential clients to match with which lawyers.

The Texas Ethics Committee declared that a legal matching service — such as LegalMatch — is permitted if it does not use discretion, but instead automates the process of matching potential clients to attorneys using geography and legal subject areas. Removing individual discretion removes ethical concerns that arise when non-lawyers “steer” or “run” cases to lawyers for profit. Instead of “steering” clients to lawyers, LegalMatch uses the Internet to help lawyers and clients find each other.

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