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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 202

Adopted November 2, 1959

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

INQUIRY

May an attorney maintain a listing in the telephone directory of a town other than that in which his office is located or in which he resides.

OPINION

It is the opinion of the Committee that such procedure is improper. Canon 27 of the Canons of Professional Ethics forbids direct or indirect advertising by an attorney. Prior opinions of this Committee have been to the effect that listings by an attorney in the classified section (yellow pages) of the telephone directory in the city where he maintains his office is an exception to this general rule on the grounds that the advantage to the public in being able to locate easily the telephone number of a specific attorney whose number they are seeking outweighs the possible taint of advertising which such "paid for" listings imply. The same reasoning cannot be applied to listings in directories of communities in which the attorney maintains neither an office nor a residence. In fact, it is quite apparent that the only reason for such listing would be in the nature of advertising, as it is not likely that one seeking that particular attorney would seek his name in the directory of a community in which he neither resides nor maintains an office.

The specific question has been before the Ethics Committee of the Bar of the State of Michigan on two occasions; the first in 1951 (Opinion No. 45) held that a law firm located in a large city could not with propriety carry a listing in classified pages of the directories of numerous small communities located close to the city but maintaining separate exchanges and directories, when neither the firm nor its members maintain law offices in the communities, nor any members of the firm reside therein. The second of these opinions (Opinion No. 171, 1958) applied the same reasoning to "foreign listings" in the regular white pages of the telephone directory of a community in which the lawyer maintained neither an office or residence. In that opinion it is pointed out that the fact that the foreign listing in the general white pages is less conspicuous does not change the same basic objection pointed out in the prior opinion to listings in the classified section.

Lest this opinion be misunderstood or misconstrued, we feel that it should be pointed out that an attorney residing in one community but maintaining an office in a separate community could with propriety have added to the general listing to which he is entitled as a telephone subscriber in the community of his residence, his office telephone in the community of his office. By the same token, in the general listing in the directory of the community where his office is located, it would likewise be proper to indicate his residence in the other community.

It would be improper for him to be listed in the classified section of the community in which he resided or to have his residence number shown in the classified section of the directory of the community in which his office is located.