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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 164

Adopted January 14, 1953

QUERY

Can a lawyer ethically run a notice in a newspaper advising the public that he prepares income tax returns, and giving his name and address but omitting the fact that he is a lawyer?

ANSWER

The running of such a notice would be a violation of Canon 27, and therefore unethical. In the American Bar Association's Opinion No. 234 it was held that soliciting employment in the "making out of income tax returns" constitutes solicitation of professional employment contrary to Canon 27, even though the lawyer's name did not appear in the advertisement. In that opinion they referred to related phases of the question and point out in the Opinion 57,

"Some businesses in which laymen engage are so closely associated with the practice of law that their solicitation of business may readily become a means of indirect solicitation of business for any lawyer that is associated with them."

Said Opinion points out the fact that a layman can lawfully render certain service does not necessarily mean that it would not be professional service when rendered by a lawyer. The Opinion goes on to say:

"In many instances the proper 'making out' of income tax returns will directly involve the rendition of legal services. Lawyers quite generally, as professional employment, in the practice of law, render income tax service to their clients. The style of name 'Income Tax Service' under which the association here involved proposes to advertise and solicit contains no suggestion that its service is limited to the non-legal phases of preparing tax returns. This, taken in connection with the use of the lawyer's office as that of the association, would inevitably result in the association becoming a soliciting feeder to the lawyer's law practice. The lawyer would thus become the beneficiary of such solicitation and advertising. This would violate Canon 27."

See also American Bar Association's Opinions 260 and 233. For a related opinion see American Bar Association's Opinions 269 and 272.