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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 276

Adopted February 22, 1974

INQUIRY

The Board of Governors has referred to the Committee the following questions submitted by an attorney:

1. Is it proper for an attorney who is also a certified public accountant to display on the wall of his office evidence of admission to the Bar of the state and registration as a certified public accountant?

2. Is it proper for an attorney who is also a certified public accountant to simultaneously cause his name to be listed in the yellow pages of the telephone book under headings for certified public accountants and attorneys?

3. Is it proper for an attorney who is also a certified public accountant after preparing an income tax return to use the initials "C. P. A." after his name in the space provided on the return for the signature of the preparer of the return?

OPINION

The Committee has previously held in Opinion No. 274 (adopted June 23, 1973) that it is not ethically improper, in and of itself, for a member of the Bar to simultaneously practice another profession or calling, but one occupying such a dual role is prohibited from so indicating on his letterhead, office sign, or professional cards, and he may not identify himself as a lawyer in any publication in connection with his other profession or business. DR 2_102(E). We further pointed out in that opinion the high risks of professional impropriety which confront a practicing attorney who undertakes to engage simultaneously in the practice of another profession or business.

Question No. 1: It is not ethically improper for an attorney who is also a certified public accountant to display on the wall of his office his certificate of admission to the Bar of the state and his certificate of registration as a certified public accountant. DR 2_102 (E) prohibits the attorney engaged in another occupation from publicizing and holding himself out to the public as a dual practitioner. Accordingly, a "representation" made by an attorney in his private office by displaying his certificates of admission to the Bar and registration as a certified public accountant are not considered as within the scope of prohibited publicity under the Disciplinary Rule. The representation of dual qualification in such an instance is not made to the public at large, but rather to clients personally present in the attorney's office.

Question No. 2: The Committee is of the opinion that a lawyer who also practices as a certified public accountant may be listed in the yellow pages of the telephone directory under each classification provided that there is no cross reference between the listings and neither listing indicates in any manner the other occupation.

The provisions of DR 2_102(a)(5) governs the manner in which an attorney may be listed as such in a telephone directory, and this Committee has rendered numerous opinions upon the subject.

Question No. 3: The Committee is of the opinion that it is not improper for an attorney who is also a certified public accountant after preparing an income tax return to use the initials "C.P.A." after his name on the space provided on the return for the signature of the preparer. The Committee is of the opinion that such designation involves a representation or "holding out" only to the taxing authority and not to the general public.

The Committee urges practicing lawyers who also pursue other professions or callings to familiarize themselves with this Committee's Opinion No. 274, published in Volume 44, Oklahoma Bar Association Journal, 2157 (June 30, 1973). In every case where a lawyer performs services for a client which could be performed by one not a member of the Bar, nevertheless, in performing them in the course of his legal services he is acting as a lawyer and subject to the Code of Professional Responsibility.