Ethics Counsel on www.OKbar.org

OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 239

Adopted March 17, 1966

INQUIRY

This committee has been asked whether or not an individual lawyer, or a law firm may have the following phrase imprinted on the envelopes of the individual lawyer, or firm: SEE YOUR LAWYER FIRST.

1. Advertising--The above inquiry came as a result of the mentioned phrase appearing upon the envelopes used by the Oklahoma Bar Associations in correspondence originating in the offices of Headquarters Oklahoma Bar Association in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

It is not a violation of Canon 27 to employ advertising facilities to acquaint the lay public with the expert service the legal profession is able to render, especially in respect to those matters where the securing of competent legal advice and assistance in advance of acting will be calculated to protect the client's rights and interests, insure compliance with essential legal requirements, and avoid future difficulty and litigation; provided it is carried on by an organized Bar Association and not by individual lawyers, so that any semblance of personal solicitation and any impression that it is actuated by a selfish desire to secure greater professional employment is avoided, and it is made clear to the lay public that the primary objective is to give beneficial information to the layman, and to enable lawyers to render a better professional service. In view of the above it is the opinion of this committee that it was entirely proper for the Oklahoma Bar Association, an organized Bar Association to use the phrase, SEE YOUR LAWYER FIRST, on envelopes used by the Association.

2. Advertising--It is a violation of Canon 27, for an individual lawyer, or law firm to do anything giving a semblance of personal solicitation of business, or creating any impression that it is actuated by a selfish desire to secure greater professional employment. Since the great majority of envelopes addressed in the office of an individual lawyer, or law firm will ultimately end up in the hands of those parties who are either clients, or with whom the lawyer or firm has some dealings, or hopes to have some dealings, it is well within the range of probability that, anyone receiving an envelope from an individual lawyer, or law firm bearing the phrase, SEE YOUR LAWYER FIRST, will interpret the phrase to mean "SEE THE LAWYER OR LAW FIRM MAILING THIS ENVELOPE FIRST." In view of the premises, it is the opinion of this committee that the use of such a phrase by an individual lawyer, or law firm would be unethical, in violation of Canon 27.

See Opinion 179 of the Committee on Professional Ethics, American Bar Association, also, Jacksonville Bar Association v. Wilson, 102 So.2d 292 (Fla.1958), and Opinion 121 of the Committee on Professional Ethics, American Bar Association.