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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 182

Adopted June 15, 1955

QUERY

Would it be permissible ... to place a card or announcement in the journal, reading as follows:

John Doe

Blank Building

Blank City, Okla.

Specializing in Writing Brief for other Lawyers.

ANSWER

Drinker's Legal Ethics p. 241 says,

"A professional card may not state branches of the law practiced, or that the lawyer intends to restrict his practice to a particular tribunal or to a branch of the law not constituting a recognized specialty ...".

Canon 46 reads:

"Where a lawyer is engaged in rendering a specialized legal service directly and only to other lawyers, a brief, dignified notice of that fact, couched in language indicating that it is addressed to lawyers, interested in legal periodicals and like publications, when it will afford convenient and beneficial information to lawyers desiring to obtain such service, is not improper."

The answer to the above question depends on whether or not brief writing is a specialized legal service. Obviously they are not, for legal research and the preparation of briefs is done by every general practitioner.

Opinion 94 of the Michigan State Bar quoted from opinions of the American Bar saying:

"On this subject Opinion 175 of the American Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics held that 'Admiralty' and 'Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights' are recognized specialties, but added:

'Any class of work which the average lawyer is equipped and willing to handle cannot be said to be a specialty despite the fact that a lawyer may restrict himself to such a class of work and acquire an unusual degree of proficiency and experience in handling the same.'

Opinion 145 of the American Bar Committee on Professional Ethics held that the following similar advertisement to lawyers was improper:

'Specialization in legal research--preparation of cases for trial and appeal-- trial and appellate briefing--rendition of written opinions.'

We feel constrained to follow the precedent established by these two previous holdings of the American Bar Committee on Professional Ethics and to apply the test; whether the work sought to be advertised is a class of work which the average lawyer is equipped and willing to handle. While we recognize that one who does such work to the exclusion of all other types of law practice may become especially proficient therein, nevertheless this circumstance does not change the fact that the average lawyer holds himself out as one who is equipped and willing to do the work himself."

In Advisory Opinions 3 and 22 of the Board of Governors of the Oklahoma Bar Association it was held that a lawyer soliciting brief writing from the other lawyers was guilty of unprofessional conduct.

Such card or announcement would not be proper.