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Is It proper for a lawyer to write a regular column Intended for publication in a weekly newspaper and possible national syndication, describing Court decisions and legal problems of interest to the lay public under the circumstances hereinafter stated? The column would conform with the newspaper’s requirements that all of its feature columns contain the name of the author in large type, along with a small picture of the author in a box at its head. In addition, the lawyer’s name, followed by the letters “J.D.”, would appear at the end of the column, along with a notation by the lawyer welcoming suggestions as to areas of the law that would be of interest to readers.
The education of the public concerning legal problems that frequently arise is an important function of the legal profession. In furtherance of this end a lawyer may write professional articles for lay publications, but the articles should be motivated by a desire to benefit the public rather than, to obtain publicity for the author, and should in no event purport to solve specific individual problems. DR 2-104(A)(4); EC 2-1, 2-2, 2-4, 2-5.
Accordingly, it is proper for a lawyer to write a weekly column of the kind proposed in the inquiry for publication in a newspaper of general circulation and for possible national syndication. It is also proper in connection with such column for the lawyer to identify himself by name and as a member of the Bar of a particular state, provided he does so without special emphasis, such as by the use of distinctive type. See ABA Inf. C-487 (1961), N. Y State 72 (1968). Further identifying information would be unnecessary and might be construed as advertising. ABA Inf. 1198 (1971). Hence, in view of the fact that the articles are written for publication in a newspaper to be circulated primarily among laymen, who usually are not familiar with the different kinds of law degrees, the initials “J ,D.” should not be used and the author should refer to himself simply as “‘Member of the New York Bar”.
A photograph of the lawyer, while of course a form of identification is not necessarily such identifying information as to constitute a violation of the rule against self-advertising, where the lawyer does not pay for its publication and a newspaper requires that a standard size picture of the author appear in each of its feature columns , In such case the lawyer’s acquiesence is a matter of good taste rather than a matter of ethics. See ABA Inf. C-788 (1964). His decision might be affected by the admonition in EC 2-2 that “a lawyer who participates in such activities should shun personal publicity”.
The invitation at the end of the column calling for suggestions as to areas of the law that would be of interest to readers has some danger, but is not improper. However, there should be a direction that any such suggestions be mailed care of the newspaper. See N,Y.Citv 352 (1935).
May 10, 1972.