Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 233

Adopted November 11, 1965


The Committee has been asked whether or not the listing of attorneys names in the classified section of a telephone directory constitutes a violation of the Code of Legal Ethics, and whether or not a lawyer or firm of lawyers may properly list their names in the alphabetical portion or classified section of a telephone directory outside the exchange area in which the lawyer or firm resides or maintains an office.

1. ADVERTISING–It is not a violation of Canon 27 for a lawyer, firm, or partnership, to list his or their names in the classified section of a telephone directory as long as the listing is no different from the manner and method adopted therein for all other lawyers in the telephone exchange area.

2. ADVERTISING–It is improper for a lawyer, firm, or partnership, to have his or their names listed in the classified section of a telephone directory covering a telephone exchange area in which he or they do not reside or maintain an office.

3. ADVERTISING–A lawyer may list himself individually in the alphabetical section of a telephone directory covering an area in which he does not reside or maintain an office, but partnerships and firms may not be listed.

(1) Canon 27 forbids advertising or solicitation, either directly or indirectly, by a lawyer. The central purpose of Canon 27 is to prevent a lawyer from indulging in unseemly efforts to gain undue publicity calculated to bring law practice. At the same time the listing of lawyers under some suitable general classification, such as “Lawyers” or “Attorneys at Law,” is not to be discouraged, even in a classified directory, because the public is entitled to information regarding the names and addresses of lawyers.

Hence questions relating to the use of a classified directory must be resolved by balancing the public interest against the incidental publicity accorded the individual lawyer. Where the publicity accorded each lawyer is the same, there can be no undue advantage. However, where the lawyer seeks some distinctive method of self-classification which is different from the general informative listing of his fellow lawyers, it becomes improper advertising, or solicitation and offends Canon 27.

(2) and (3) The purpose of the telephone directory is to facilitate communication between persons using the telephone and not, as far as lawyers are concerned, for the purpose of advertising legal services. The use of the classified portion of the directory outside of the exchange area of the office or residence of the lawyer, or firm, tends to be an advertising vehicle and is to be condemned.

A telephone directory is not a law list in which anyone would look to select a lawyer, but is merely a means of locating a lawyer already determined upon, such listing making his location easier and therefore serving a useful purpose. A client calling a predetermined lawyer should know the exchange area of his office or home.

This opinion does not seek to prevent an attorney from listing his name in the alphabetical portion of the directory, in an exchange area where he does not reside or maintain an office. This Committee feels that a client who wishes to call an attorney, already knowing his name, may conveniently and casily find his telephone number and address. Attorneys who avail themselves of such listings, particularly those with Foreign Exchange Lines, should take care to see that they are listed only in the alphabetical section.

It is therefore the opinion of this Committee that the listing of the names of lawyers, or law firms, or partnerships, in telephone directories outside the exchange area of their residences or office in the classified section is unethical but a lawyer may list himself individually, together with his official residence and telephone number in the alphabetical portion only, in telephone directories outside such exchange area without being inconsistent with the object and spirit of Canon 27.

See Opinions 284, 313, and Informal Decisions No. C_487 and C_732 of the Committee on Professional Ethics, American Bar Association; also American Bar Foundation Research Memorandum Series No. 6, Supplement to Appendix A of Canon of Professional Ethics and Grievance, 1962_June 1958, No. 149.7.