These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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31-Protecting and Disclosing Confidences and Secrets

47-Lawyer Referral Services

50-Lawyer-Owned Businesses

Lawyers may not join a lead-sharing organization in which membership "is often dependent on the number of leads a member passes," because: such "reciprocal" referrals amounts to a "quid pro quo payment for services" in violation of the prohibition on providing something of value in return for a referral (and possibly in violation of § 54.1-3939's and § 54.1-3941's ban on "running and capping," as explained in a 12/7/10 letter from Virginia's Attorney General); such participation puts the client's interest at risk because the lawyer "may be obligated to refer a client to a particular member specialist when a non-member specialist may be better suited to meet the client's needs"; the lawyer faces a personal conflict of interest because the lawyer may not feel free "to choose the most appropriate specialty provider for a client"; "[t]he mere disclosure of a client's name and specific need in certain circumstances may be enough to violate the Rule without consent of the client." A lawyer may own an interest in a company that is such a lead-sharing organization "as long as the lawyer is not a member." Lawyers may also engage in voluntary referrals to other lawyers and professionals, but may not join "a hypothetical organization which bases membership on the commitment to provide referrals." (2/2/09; revised 12/29/10)

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn