Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 236

Adopted February 16, 1966


A County Bar Association has asked whether or not law firms or attorneys may place their names and or occupations on the windows of offices occupied by them and if so, how many windows may be used.

1. ADVERTISING–While it is proper to designate the location or entrance to a law office by proper professional notice, the placing of a firm name on additional doors or windows is unethical.

2. ADVERTISING–It is improper for a lawyer, firm or partnership to state on their shingle or door any more than their name and the words attorney, attorney at law, lawyer, counselor at law, or law offices either singular or plural, in neat and professional lettering.

Canon 27 forbids advertising or soliciting, either directly or indirectly, by a lawyer. And while it is ethical to designate the location of or entrance to a law office by a proper professional shingle, the wording and lettering upon such shingle, or sign, or notice must be in such form as to designate professional good taste, otherwise it becomes advertising. The test is whether the sign is intended and calculated to enable persons looking for a lawyer already selected, or to find him, or to attract the attention of the public or persons who might be looking for a lawyer although not him.

This Committee is aware that lawyers and law firms in many towns in this state are in violation of this opinion and that the use of signs upon windows has become an accepted custom in the smaller cities and towns. However, this does not excuse the improper action of the use of lettering and signs upon windows, which is simply a cover for solicitation of business or advertising. We think that it is professionally improper.

Any wording, other than designated above, upon a shingle, notice, or door, of a law office, such as notary public, tax consultant, investment counselor, or any other occupation is wholly improper.

We hold that the lettering and wording designated above may be used only upon a shingle or a door to designate the location of or entrance to the law office. If such sign or shingle is unusual in proportions and is painted, printed, or designed in such a way calculated to attract the attention of the public, then it is advertising and is improper.

See Opinions A131 to A136 inclusive, and Informal Opinion C-510, of the Committee on Professional Ethics of the American Bar Association.