Opinion Number 568
I will be publishing a legal column of recent decisions in a lay trade magazine. I have been requested by one of the editors to furnish a personal photograph along with a biographical resume. They have indicated that they would like to publish my photograph with facts from my resume in the Publisher’s Column so that the magazine could introduce me to the readers. This Publisher’s Column is separate and distinct from any by-line. The latter will indicate only that the article was prepared by me a member of the New York Bar.
I request an advisory opinion as to what may be included in the Publisher’s Column over his name. I have been requested to submit the following: 1) Photograph of myself; 2) Undergraduate school degree and honors; 3) Law School degree honors e.g. Law Review Moot Court etc.) and publications (title of Law Review publications); 4) Personal comments as to the aims and purposes of the newly revised legal column; 5) Member of the New York Bar and Federal Bar; 6) Bar Association memberships; and 7) Firm affiliation.
A Publisher’s Column will not be published on any regular basis; it most likely will be published only once as it is merely an introduction to the readers.
I would appreciate your opinion as to what may be included in my resume from which they will draw the information for the column.
The Canons, while proscribing solicitation, recognize an attorney’s right to publish his views on the law in periodicals addressed to the general public, (See, N.Y. County 264.) Since the inevitable consequence of such publications in the absence of a rule requiring strict anonymity will be to publicize the attorney as well as his views on the law, any practical application of the Canons obviously requires a balancing of policy considerations.
On the one hand are the policy considerations underlying Canon 27 which generally proscribes all forms of solicitation. The Canon forbids solicitation because it is thought to be undignified, possibly suggestive of unwarranted litigation, often misleading, and, therefore, eventually degrading to the public image of the profession. Additionally, the Canon permits all attorneys to practice their profession free from the irrelevant if not wasteful, demands of advertising, and, further, serves to reinforce the validity of the proposition that an attorney’s best advertisement is a satisfied client.
On the other hand are the policy considerations underlying Canon 40, which expressly authorizes an attorney to “write articles for publications in which he gives information upon the law.” The Canons not only recognize an attorney’s right to express his opinion on the law, but implicitly encourage this conduct in that it fulfills a public need to be informed of such matters by those who are most qualified to do so.
Hence, any balancing of policy considerations must seek to insure both the attorney s right to express his views on the law and the public’s need for responsible authorship as against any damage to the dignity of the profession and the public which it serves by reason of either an actual solicitation or the appearance of solicitation.
Canon 27 provides a simple guideline in disapproving any form of “self-laudation” and holding such practices tantamount to solicitations or “indirect advertisements”.
Photographs are traditionally viewed in this context as undignified and because their use is unnecessary to a realization of the salutory policy considerations underlying Canon 40, the proscription of Canon 27 must prevail. (ABA Inf. 743.)
Undergraduate as well as law school honors and publications would seem to fall within the broad proscription against “self-laudation”. Similarly, the inquirers membership in various associations, as well as the fact that the inquirer is admitted to the “Federal Bar”, appear to be nothing less than unseemly puffing, which can only serve to mislead the uninformed.
The Committee is, therefore, of the opinion that the inquirer may properly cause to be published no more than a list of the names of his undergraduate and law schools, the degrees obtained thereat, his personal comments as to the aims and purposes of the newly revised legal column, the fact that he is a member of the New York Bar, and his firm affiliation.
In conclusion, the Committee notes that the Publishers Column to which reference is made is to be published on only one occasion and the Committee expressly refrains from commenting upon the propriety of the subject publication were the same to be published on repeated occasions.
March 31. 1969