December 22, 2009
Discount Coupons Not Unethical
The South Carolina Supreme Court has dismissed one charge and issued a confidential letter of caution in a second matter in connection with disciplinary allegations "involving two methods used by Respondent to promote his services as a real estate attorney."
The dismissed charge alleged improper solicitation through the attorney's distribution of discount coupons for his services. He gave the coupons to realtors to display in their office lobbies and mailed them with cover letters directly to realtors and lenders. The charges were not that the coupons were unethical per se but rather related to the manner of delivery. The sustained charge involved his use of the words "expert" and "specialist" on the firm web page. The attorney had stopped the references when this allegation arose.
It is clear from the transcript of the hearing in this matter that Respondent researched the Ethics Advisory Opinions, that he was very cooperative with ODC, and that he made immediate efforts to make changes in his conduct when this disciplinary action arose. We agree with the Hearing Panel that dismissal of the allegation regarding distribution of the discount coupons is appropriate, and we issue this Letter of Caution, with a finding of minor misconduct, for Respondent's violation of Rule 7.4(b) for his inappropriate use of forms of the words "expert" and "specialist" on his website.
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