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Court Amends RPC 7.3 to Prevent Docket Mining and Solicitation in Domestic Actions

By Order dated July 30, 2018, upon the recommendation of the Disciplinary Board, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania amended Rule of Professional Conduct 7.3. The Rule will be effective 60 days after the date of the Order.  R.P.C. 7.3 permits certain forms of solicitation, save for limited exceptions. Recently, the Board was alerted to a practice concerning attorneys’ solicitation of defendant spouses upon the filing of a divorce complaint. Certain practitioners conducted daily reviews of docket filings to advertise their services to defendant spouses in recently filed divorce complaints.  The Board became concerned that this practice could result in the defendant spouse receiving a solicitation letter before that spouse knew that a complaint in divorce had been filed, thereby creating the potential for domestic violence. 

The amendment adds new paragraph (b)(4) to provide that a lawyer may contact, or send written communication to, the target of the solicitation for the purpose of obtaining professional employment unless the communication is a solicitation to a party who has been named as a defendant or respondent in a domestic relations action. In such cases, the lawyer shall wait until proof of service appears on the docket before communicating with the named defendant or respondentThe commentary is amended to add new comment [8] to explain the reason for requiring a lawyer to withhold solicitation in domestic relations actions until after proof of service on the docket, specifically noting that the risk of violent confrontations may increase in these matters if a defendant or respondent is solicited prior to service of the action.

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