OBA Ethics Counsel
Ethics Opinion No. 272
Adopted June 23, 1973
The Committee has been asked for its opinion on the propriety of a brochure, circulated by a University Management Development Center operating under the auspices of the College of Business Administration, advertising a seminar on the subject of "How the Businessman Can Represent Himself in Small Claims Court". The brochure contained a detailed agenda for the seminar, some specific information on its cost, the procedure for enrollment and also a small picture of the seminar leader, who is an attorney, and two paragraphs of information relating to his background, past experience and present areas of endeavor. This material, inter alia, stated that the attorney is engaged in private practice in the city of X and reported that he also holds the position of an adjunct instructor in business law at the university.
A lawyer must avoid any direct or indirect form of advertising himself and should not inspire laudatory stories in the press or in other forms of communication. Even when such comments do not take place at his instigation, he should endeavor to avoid their repetition.
Always conforming to the canons relating thereto, an attorney may write legal articles and appear in public as a lecturer or on radio or television. He must take care not to give specific advice on actual legal problems without the relationship of client and lawyer. Code of Professional Responsibility, Canon 2, EC 2_2; EC 2_5. Opinion 262, Oklahoma Bar Association. In this context the attorney must be motivated by a desire to render a service to the community and not to lower the dignity of the profession or to advertise himself by participating in the public appearance.
A lawyer may participate in a seminar on law sponsored by a bar association or other appropriate educational or professional organization. Those attending such seminar may include laymen. The lawyer may be paid for his presentation and services in connection with the seminar. The announcement of the seminar may name the lawyer and give a brief non-laudatory statement of his qualifications. Code of Professional responsibility, DR 2_101(B)(2). If approprise [sic], the attorney's specialty or college decrees may be mentioned. Opinions Nos. 92, 141, 159, 183 American Bar Association; and DR 2_102(F).
The entire content of the brochure, considering the subject matter of the seminar in question, refutes the presence of unethical conduct by the attorney involved. The circular was designed for and used as an advertising device for the seminar and not as an advertisement by or of the attorney or of his availabilty [sic] for private legal services. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the subject matter of the seminar was instruction to laymen on their personal use of the Small Claims Courts under the laws of the State of Oklahoma. This is an instance where the brochure's information concerning this attorney was pertinent to the seminar and not laudatory of the attorney in any sense.
The Committee concludes that the brochure in question did not constitute unethical advertising or unprofessional conduct by the attorney concerned.
Legal Ethics Committee
The committee has been requested to reconsider Advisory Opinion 1972_5, which concluded that a brochure or flyer advertising a seminar on a specific legal topic and containing only a brief non-laudatory background sketch, with an accompanying photograph, of the attorney who was to lead the discussion, was not unethical advertising or unprofessional conduct by the attorney concerned. The opinion is specifically limited to a brochure or flyer with restricted circulation to those persons having a direct interest in the subject matter under consideration.
The Code of Professional Responsibility urges lawyers to participate in educational and public relations programs concerning our legal system with particular reference to legal problems that frequently arise (Code of Professional Responsibility, Canons, EC 2_2). It would seem patently obvious that the program must be both announced and advertised to those persons interested in the topic. The advertising must be designed to merely call attention to the topic, the area or areas to be covered, the time and place of the meeting and a brief statement relative to the qualification of the lawyer who will lead the discussion. The announcement should not be an advertisement for the attorney or of his availability for private legal service.
The brochure discussed in Advisory Opinion 1972_5, meets the above requirements and was restricted to a limited circulation to those interested in the subject matter to be discussed. Therefore, upon reconsideration, the committee confirms Advisory Opinion 1972_5.