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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 201

Adopted November 2, 1959

The Executive Council of the Oklahoma Bar Association has submitted to its Legal Ethics Committee the following inquiry:

INQUIRY

A member of the Bar has advised that his name and that of two other local attorneys was omitted from the yellow pages of the local telephone directory last published by the telephone company. He states that in lieu of a "lawsuit against the telephone company, we have proposed that they send out to each telephone subscriber a card showing that these names were left out of the telephone book, and acknowledging that they made this error in publishing the book." He asks would the distribution of these cards be considered unethical?

OPINION

It is the opinion of the Committee that the distribution of such cards would be a clear violation of Canon 27, which prohibits advertising either directly or indirectly. The distribution of these cards to all subscribers would call undue attention to the names and telephone numbers of the attorneys in question. This Committee has on several occasions held that bold faced listings or listings under a specialty are improper in that such listings are obviously for the purpose of advertising and not for the purpose of facilitating location of an attorney's name by one seeking that particular attorney.

This particular set of facts has been before the Ethics Committee of the American Bar Association. In Opinion No. 150 appearing in Appendix "A" to the compilation of 1957, the following statement is found:

"Where by mistake a lawyer was omitted from the telephone book, the proper practice is not to insert an advertisement but to send a letter to those whose personal relations warrant this."

The Committee feels that this opinion is correct, and that it would be proper for the telephone company to send a correction to other members of the Bar and to the clients of the lawyers in question, whose personal relations warrant such procedure. Any wholesale distribution of these notices and certainly any distribution to all telephone subscribers would be a clear violation of Canon 27.