NUMBER 375 1947
Joint opinion of the Committees on Professional Ethics of The Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the New York County Lawyers’ Association on the subject of professional announcements by attorneys returning to private practice from Government service.
In recent years a number of opinions have been issued by the Committees on Professional Ethics of The Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the New York County Lawyers’ Association, on the subject of professional announcements by attorneys returning to private practice from government service, which are in some respects in conflict with one another and with rulings of the Committee on Ethics and Grievances of the American Bar Association and of the Committee on Professional Ethics of the New York State Bar Association. To resolve the conflicts, at least as far as concerns the Committees of the two Associations first named, a joint subcommittee composed of members of those two Committees has met and formulated the following report, which has now been adopted as the joint opinion of such two Committees;
The inquiries which the Committees have had involve the following questions:
1. May such an announcement include a statement of the particular public Office held by the attorney?
2. May the announcement state that the attorney intends to specialize in practice before the Government department or agency in which he held office?
3. May it be stated that the attorney intends to specialize in n particular field of practice?
4. To whom may such announcements be sent?
5. Are there any special dispensations applicable to veterans in these respects?
1. In the Committees’ opinion, it is not improper for an attorney to state in his professional announcement the particular public office from which he is returning to private practice. Such a statement should not go beyond naming the department or agency of the Government with which the attorney served and the title of the position which he held therein. The terms of the announcement and its physical setup should be such as to avoid any implication that the attorney is seeking to announce that he is specially qualified to handle matters dealt with by such agency or department or in which he gained experience while holding public office. Examples of professional announcements, which the Committees regard as proper, are the following:
John Smith, having resigned as Special Assistant to the Attorney General in the Anti-Trust Division of the Department of .Justice, announces that he has joined the firm of X, Y & Z.
John Smith, having resigned as Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Richard Roe. announce the formation of a partnership for the general practice of law.
2. The Committees are of the opinion that it is improper for such an announcement to state that the attorney intends to specialize in practice before the Government department or agency in which he held office.
3. After full reconsideration by the Committees, they are of the opinion that a distinction should be made between announcements to be sent only to lawyers, and announcements to be sent to others. Announcements made to lawyers only, which state the particular branch of law intended to be practiced, are still predominantly informational in character because lawyers are not substantially influenced to employ other lawyers by announcements or impressed by their implications. On the contrary, such announcements have a far greater tendency to impress persons other than lawyers with the obvious implication that the announcer is particularly qualified to handle the type of matter to be specialized in; and hence such announcements constitute improper solicitations of employment when sent to others than lawyers.
Consequently, the Committees are now of the opinion that an attorney may properly send to lawyers only, both known and unknown to him, an announcement which includes a statement of intention to specialize in a particular branch of the law, whether or not it be a recognized specialty, but that an attorney may not include such a statement in any announcement to be sent to anyone who is not a lawyer unless the specialty be admiralty. Patents, copyrights or trade-marks. The exception is made in deference to a long standing and approved custom in the particular fields mentioned.
4. A professional announcement may be sent by a lawyer to other lawyers, known and unknown to him, and in addition .only to non-lawyer individuals and organizations whom he knows personally or with whom his relationships are such as to make it appropriate that they should receive the announcement. i.e., such an announcement may be properly sent to other than lawyers only when “warranted by personal relations.” (See Canon 27.)
No announcement may be published otherwise than in an approved law list or for a limited number of times in a publication published for the use of lawyers primarily.
5. In the opinion of the Committees, no special dispensations are applicable to veterans as such, as distinguished from attorneys returning to private practice from any branch of the Government service. While the Committees are sympathetic with all proper means tor aiding veterans in resuming the practice of law, such means should not violate the standards of professional conduct generally applicable to the legal profession.
6. In form and content any announcement sent out by a lawyer should be truthful, dignified, appropriate and in good taste.