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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 92

Adopted September 27, 1935

The following inquiry has been received:

"Recently a newspaper of this city proposed to issue an "anniversary edition." It has solicited the members of the bar of the city to furnish it with their photographs to be published on a certain page with which is to appear the names of the members of the bar with their occupation--such as lawyer, attorney at law, etc. Each member of the bar, of course, is to pay a certain definite sum for the publication.

May a member of the bar, with propriety, thus cause, or permit, his photograph to be published and his name placed thereunder the designation referred to?"

In response:

He may not. Such practice is condemned by Rule 29 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

We refer with approval, to Opinions No. 43 and No. 107 of the American Bar Association's Committee on Professional Ethics and Grievances.

In Opinion No. 43 it was said:

"A photograph of a lawyer, accompanied by a statement of his name, address and vocation is not a professional card and its publication, if paid for by the lawyer, either directly or indirectly, becomes a solicitation of business by advertising which must be condemned as a violation of Canon 27. The attention of the public is drawn in an unusual manner to the lawyer in connection with his profession. One of the features which distinguished an advertisement from news or literary article is the fact that its publication is paid for by one receiving the benefit of the publicity, and the amount of the payment or what particular item of cost the payment is supposed to cover are immaterial."

In Opinion 107 the committee had under consideration a Christmas greeting advertisement in a local newspaper containing a headline in bold type reading, "Greetings and Best Christmas Wishes" followed by nine lines in large capitals conveying an appropriate Christmas sentiment. The space was about 14x10 inches. In the lower half were twenty-two names in large type, including the names of six city officials, three or four other names of lay organizations, the state's attorney and the assistant state's attorney, and the names of ten lawyers or law firms, followed by the designation of "attorney" or "attorneys" and one as "lawyer." It was assumed that the lawyers made some payment or contribution for the newspaper space.

In disapproval the committee said:

"While this probably intended as a form of joint Christmas greeting, this committee finds that it must express disapproval. The addition of the designation as "attorney" calls attention to the lawyers' professional occupation and is in conflict with Canons 27 and 43. The local newspaper is not a "reputable law list" as limited in the Canon, nor does it appear to be in conformity with any local custom. Our view is that it was improper for the lawyers to refer to their profession in this way."