Can a lawyer advertise free settlement services to consumers for negotiating with insurance companies if those consumers will be referred to another attorney and charged a fee — with the initial firm getting a split of that fee — if the negotiation fails? Can there be an adequate disclosure of that caveat on a billboard ad?

The Bar’s Standing Committee on Advertising at its June meeting voted that a proposed billboard proclaiming, “Don’t pay 30-40% attorney’s fees” and “0% fee,” was misleading because it did not reveal the representation was limited to only settlement services and if the case was not settled it would be referred to another law firm, which would charge a fee and split that with the initial firm. It also didn’t disclose that the initial firm could also charge $250 an hour for work done during the 90-day period if the consumer dropped the law firm during that time, and clients who apply for the settlement program but are rejected would be referred to another firm, which would split fees with the initial firm.

The advertising firm, B.B. Legal, LLC, has appealed that decision to the Bar Board of Governors, which will consider it in October. But at the committee’s August 19 meeting, Bar staff asked for guidance about disclaimer language in a subsequent ad that would address the committee’s reservations. The second suggested billboard includes the statements: “SettleForFree.com,” “Pay 0% fee,” and “Don’t pay 30-40% attorney’s fees.”