The full answer to this would fill a book, but here are brief responses to the three most common questions we get from attorneys:
"How do you earn a share of fees from referrals?"
Every state has a version of Model Rule 1.5(e), which permits one lawyer or firm to divide a fee with another — including in exchange for a referral. (Rule 5.4(a) is inapposite because Atticus is a law firm; Rule 7.2(b) is inapposite because this type of fee-sharing doesn’t qualify as payment for a recommendation.) To comply with Rule 1.5, we always structure any division of fee as a percentage of fees earned (never a flat amount or up-front payment), and disclose the full terms of any division to the client in writing. In most cases, we also assume “joint responsibility” (usually defined as vicarious liability for acts of malpractice) for the duration of the representation. See our guide to Ethical Fee Sharing for more information.
"How do you practice nationally?"
Although we do serve clients from all 50 states, we’re careful not to violate rules on unauthorized practice. For state-law issues in states where our lawyers aren't barred, we never advertise and we never give legal advice. However, when clients come to us, we do help them choose lawyers and make referrals: All 50 states permit referrals from out-of-state law firms, and referring to local counsel — as we do in all cases — cures potential issues with unauthorized or multi-jurisdictional practice. For federal issues like social security disability, we advertise nationally and give legal advice everywhere.
"How do you give legal advice online?"
We don’t. Our online tools help us to screen and intake clients, but they never give advice. When we last checked, whether a law firm can offer automated legal advice to clients remained an unanswered question in all states — so in an effort to stay in clear compliance, we've avoided the practice to date.