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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 211

Adopted September 15, 1961

INQUIRY

Does the name of an attorney or of a firm of attorneys appearing in ads of this nature constitute a violation of any canon of professional ethics?

OPINION

This is not the first time that this problem has been presented. Last year in a different county a full-page ad of an executor's or administrator's sale appeared in which the name of the attorney appeared in large letters without the reference to the fact that inquiries could be made to him. In that instance it was felt that the lettering of the attorney's name was so large and the reason for its appearance in the metropolitan newspaper in connection with the sale so problematical, that it perhaps constituted a violation of Canon 27 which prohibits direct or indirect advertising. However, at that time it was felt that this was merely a question of degree; that the appearance of an attorney's name in connection with notice to creditors is common practice in probate proceedings. There it has the definite advantage of facilitating the contacting of the proper attorneys by interested parties and other attorneys, and the practice as such is not improper. In the instant case a definite purpose is indicated in the inclusion of the attorney's name in the notice of bankruptcy sale; and had the name of the firm of attorneys in this instance been in the samesized type as the balance of the informative part of the advertisement, we are of the opinion that it would have been proper.

As is so often the case in problems of this nature, the question is one of degree and is basically one of good taste. If a definite purpose in including the name of the attorney or firm of attorneys in an advertisement of this nature is apparent and the size of the lettering and the location of the name in the advertisement is not such as to call undue attention to the names of the attorney or attorneys, it is felt that no violation of Canon 27 occurs. If, on the other hand, the inclusion of the attorney's name serves no useful purpose and is included solely to call attention to the professional status of the attorney, a clear violation occurs. By the same token, if the name or names appear in print of unusual size or the location in the ad is so prominent as to call undue attention to the attorneys' names, a violation occurs.