Ethics Opinion No. 232
Adopted October 12, 1965
This Committee has been asked whether a lawyer engaged in private practice may ethically own an interest in an abstract company and if so whether he engages in professional misconduct by permitting the publication of his name as “General Counsel” in newspaper advertisements of the abstract company.
1. ADVERTISING AND SOLICITATION–It is not improper for an attorney engaged in private practice to own an interest in an abstract company, provided such ownership is not used directly or indirectly to obtain or solicit law business.
2. ADVERTISING–It is improper for an attorney engaged in private practice to permit his name to be published as “General Counsel” in an advertisement of an abstracting company.
The business of examining records and preparing abstracts of title has historically been lawyer business. At an early stage in our history, lawyers waited on the court officers to examine their records in order to pass upon abstracts. Thereafter, lawyers began to keep their own records for the purpose of making it easier for them to prepare abstracts and examine records. About this same time lay agencies also got into the business of preparing abstracts and certifying as to their correctness. This historical background is stated for the purpose of showing that the business of preparing abstracts is different from the operation of collection agencies or insurance agencies, which have been condemned by Ethics Opinions when conducted by lawyers in their offices. See Opinions 35 and 225 of the American Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics. American Bar Association, Committee on Professional Ethics, Informal Decision C 726.
A lawyer’s ownership of an interest in an abstract company presents no ethical problem in and of itself.
The provisions of Canon 27, however, are violated if the abstract company is operated in such a way as to advertise, directly or indirectly, its lawyer-owner, or as a means of direct or indirect solicitation of law business.
Accordingly, it is the opinion of the Committee that the law office of an attorney owning an interest in an abstract company should be physically separate and apart from the location of the abstract business.
In addition, the lawyer should not recommend to a client the use of the abstract company until he fully discloses his interest therein. American Bar Association, Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinion No. 304.
It is a violation of Canon 27 for any attorney engaged in private practice to permit the publication of his name as “General Counsel” in an advertisement of an abstract company.
Oklahoma Bar Association Advisory Opinion No. 207 (1960_4); Opinion No. 31, Syllabi Nos. 2 and 3; American Bar Association, Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinion No. 285; American Bar Association, Committee on Professional Ethics, Informal Decision C 731.