February 1, 1974
Ethics Opinon 1974-3
SUBJECT: LEGAL EDITORIALS; SOLICITATION
An attorney, out of a feeling of public duty and due to the urging of the editor of two local newspapers, has been writing legal editorials for said newspapers, entitled "Legal Tidbits by . . ." May the attorney ethically write said articles so long as he does not refer to himself as an attorney at law?
Yes. The attorney may write said editorials so long as by doing so he does not solicit professional employment therefrom.
STATUTES AND CANONS
Both Rule 2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of California, and Canon 27 of the Canons of Professional Ethics of the American Bar Association state that the solicitation of professional employment either directly or indirectly is prohibited.
Canon 40 of the Canons of Professional Ethics is directly in point herein and states as follows:
"A lawyer may with propriety write articles for publications in which he gives information upon the law; but he should not accept employment from such publication to advise inquirers in respect to their individual rights."
FORMAL AND INFORMAL OPINIONS
The Committee on Professional Ethics and Grievances of the American Bar Association has considered the instant problem on numerous occasions. The Committee has evaluated Canons 27 and 40 in every possible respect and in Formal Opinions No. 92, 162 and 273, the Committee held that there was no ethical or valid reason why an attorney may not write articles of a general nature on legal subjects for magazines and newspapers. It must be understood that these opinions clearly state that the articles must be on a subject of general interest and they must not constitute an attempt to legally advise anyone of his individual problem.
Furthermore, in Opinion No. 141, the Committee stated it was not improper to allow the attorney to publish his picture along with such an article. It must be noted that in Formal Opinion No. 141, the allowance of the picture was in a fraternal magazine and, therefore, no opinion can be expressed in the instant case regarding a picture in a public newspaper. Further, the point is moot since it is not requested by the attorney that this Committee pass on publication of a picture.
Based on the aforementioned opinion and the sanctions of the Committee on Professional Ethics and Grievances of the American Bar Association, there appears to be no impropriety in the requesting attorney's writing said editorials. On the contrary, it appears the American Bar Association encourages dissemination of legal information to the public in the spirit of better informing the public and in the spirit of good will between members of the legal profession and the public. It is the writer's opinion that it would be ethical for the attorney to continue writing said articles so long as they were kept in the spirit of his previous articles and so long as he follows the purposes stated in his letter to this Committee.
This opinion is advisory only. It is not binding upon the State Bar, the Board of Governors, its agents or employees.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Effective 1/1/75 California Rule 2 is Rule 2-101. A.B.A. Canons refer to the Canons of Professional Ethics which were followed prior to 1970. This subject matter is now found in DR 2-101 of the A.B.A. Code of Professional Responsibility.
Disclaimer: This opinion was issued by the Legal Ethics Committee of the San Diego County Bar Association. It is advisory only and is not binding upon any member of the SDCBA, any other member of the State Bar of California, the State Bar of California or its Board of Governors, or any persons or tribunals charged with regulatory responsibilities. The SDCBA, its officers, directors, agents, and the Legal Ethics Committee members assume no responsibility or liability in rendering this opinion.