Should Lawyer Offer Groupons?

Remember Ali, our new sole practitioner? We’ve been following her hypothetical efforts during my last two columns.

Ali’s been advertising her employment law practice over the Internet and attending networking events to obtain business.  However, despite Ali’s best efforts, she still has yet to obtain her first client. Ali decides to go into her career services office to get some advice.  As she waits for her appointment, she realizes she’s hungry and goes to get a sandwich.  But then she remembers she’s broke. Luckily, a few months ago she bought a Groupon for sandwiches.  She opens her Groupon on her smartphone, and then wonders, “Should I offer a Groupon for my legal work?”

First, what is Groupon?  Groupon is essentially a mass coupon company with millions of email subscribers.  These subscribers receive emails from Groupon with coupons for local businesses.  Groupon’s sales people have convinced those businesses to offer a hefty discount on their services or goods and split the discounted cost with Groupon.  If a Groupon subscriber buys, say, a $50 Groupon for a $100 spa facial, Groupon takes $25 and the spa takes $25.  So, let’s say Ali wants to offer 5 hours and $750 worth of employment law services for only $375. Can she?  And equally important, should she?

Let’s start with “can”.  The ethics opinions on this issue vary.  (There are no Illinois opinions, and unless otherwise specified, the Rules below are the same as in Illinois.).  More…

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