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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 207

Adopted August 11, 1960

The Executive Council has submitted to the Legal Ethics Committee the following inquiry:

INQUIRY

A life insurance company announced by publication in a metropolitan paper the appointment of a member of the Bar as a special representative, giving his address and telephone number. The advertisement carried a picture of the attorney and the following:

"Mr. X has been practicing law in _______ since 1945, specializing in wills, trusts, estate planning, probating of estates, corporate law and partnerships.

Because of his background and training he is well equipped to serve and to give expert counsel to his clients in connection with all plans of life insurance as they pertain to personal estate planning, business insurance, pension and profit-sharing plans.

A cordial invitation is extended you to call Mr. X on any matters pertaining to life insurance."

Does the advertisement or the practice contemplated by it violate the Canons of Professional Ethics?

OPINION

In both instances the answer is yes. If it is intended that Mr. X is to continue private practice, the advertisement is such a flagrant violation of Canon 27 as to require no further comment. If the practice contemplated pursuant to the advertisement is that Mr. X is to receive remuneration from the insurance company, it is an equally serious violation of Canon 35 which reads in part as follows:

"The professional services of a lawyer should not be controlled or exploited by any lay agency, personal or corporate, which intervenes between client and lawyer. A lawyer's responsibilities and qualifications are individual. He should avoid all relations which direct the performance of his duties by or in the interest of such intermediary. A lawyer's relation to his client should be personal, and the responsibility should be direct to the client. Charitable societies rendering aid to the indigent are not deemed such intermediaries."

Opinion No. 41 of the American Bar Association Ethics Committee condemned the practice of an attorney permitting the use of his name by a bank in advertisements in which the bank offered to draw wills and trust agreements. Syllabi Nos. 2 and 3 of OBA Opinion No. 31 are particularly appropriate:

"2. While an attorney may engage in other business, it constitutes unprofessional conduct to engage in another business which is so connected with his law practice that it can be used as a cloak for the indirect solicitation of law business.

3. The association of an attorney with an organization which solicits business, which is of such a nature as to be regarded as law business when performed by an attorney, constitutes unprofessional conduct on the part of such attorney."