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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 179

Adopted March 9, 1955

QUESTION

The Central Committee has referred a copy of a newspaper showing a three column cut of a picture of a lawyer in front of a stack of law books with a chart of the spine--and with what appears to be a section of the spine in his hand. Over the picture in large print is the caption:

"Supreme Court affirms $ 000,000 Personal Injury Judgment"

and under the picture the following:

"Attorney _____________ using __________ charts and lumbar section of spine to explain effect of predisposing condition."

then follows a three column story concerning the affirmance of the judgment.

They ask if this article and picture is a violation of the Canons of Ethics.

Since receiving this inquiry we have received another and later edition of the same newspaper with two front page stories about the same attorney recovering a large judgment and an industrial commission award for a very substantial sum. There is no picture with these two stories.

ANSWER

If the attorney procured the use of the picture, this would be unethical and improper. It constitutes indirect advertising.

Canon 27 reads in part as follows,

"... Indirect advertisements for professional employment, such as furnishing or inspiring newspaper comments, or procuring his photograph to be published in connection with causes in which the lawyer has been or is engaged or concerning the manner of their conduct, the magnitude of the interest involved, the importance of the lawyer's position, and all other self-laudation, offend the traditions and lower the tone of our profession and are reprehensible; ... *".

We appreciate the fact that a lawyer cannot prevent a publisher from reciting facts and using his name in a news story. He can and should refuse to pose for pictures as the lawyer in the picture so obviously did.