Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 132

Adopted February 26, 1937

The Board is in receipt of the following inquiry:

“I desire to inquire whether or not it is a violation of the rules of professional conduct to mail to members of the bar, from time to time, postal cards containing substantially the following:

‘ …………………., Lawyer

(address) ………….., ……..

Phone No. ……..

My business is general practice of law in state and federal courts.

For thirty years I have given special attention to writing law briefs for other lawyers, state, federal, and trial briefs’.”

In response:

The inquiry is fully answered by Advisory Opinions No. 3 (Vol. 1, Adv. Op. p. 15); No. 22 (Vol. 1, Adv. Op. p. 47); by Advisory Opinions Nos. 4, 8, 9, and 105 appearing in the same volume: and by opinions 1 and 36 of the A. B. A. Committee on Professional Ethics and Grievances, appearing at pages 1 and 104, respectively, of Vol. 1 of the bound opinions of that committee.

It is thought proper, however, to add to those opinions in view of subsequent developments.

Rule 29 of the Rules of Professional Conduct was amended February 25, 1936 to read, inter alia, as follows:

“The use (but not publication except as provided in Rule 45) of simple introductory cards in the ordinary course of the practice of law is not improper. Such cards may, with propriety, contain a statement of the lawyer’s name (and those of his lawyer associates), his profession, address, telephone number, and special branch, if any, of the profession practiced by him.

The solicitation of business by the distribution of cards or circulars, or by their publication, other than the publication of cards as permitted by Rule 45, or by other advertisement or by personal communication or interview not warranted by personal relations is unprofessional.”

Rule 29 as amended but made more clear the rule as construed by the opinions hereinbefore referred to.

On January 8, 1934 Rule 48 of the Rules of Professional Conduct was adopted. It provides:

“Where a lawyer is engaged in rendering a specialized legal service directly and only to other lawyers, a brief, dignified notice of that fact, couched in language indicating that it is addressed to lawyers, inserted in legal periodicals and like publications, when it will afford convenient and beneficial information to lawyers desiring to obtain such services, is not improper.”

Rule 48 does not permit the course of conduct indicated by the present inquiry. By its terms it permits “a brief dignified notice” of a specialized legal service, inserted in “legal periodicals and like publications.” Rule 48 is narrowed by the subsequent adoption (November 24, 1935) of amended Rule 45, which permits cards of the nature referred to in Rule 48 to be inserted only in law lists or directories, approved by the Board of Governors.