Ethics Opinion 1972-4

March 7, 1972



Is it unethical for members of the Bar to list their specialty or preference of practice in the Attorney's Directory of San Diego County?


Because of the wide public access and the possibility of public inquiry through its use, specialties should not be included.


Canon 27 of the Rules of Professional Conduct provides that advertising in any form is unprofessional and improper. Canon 46 provides an exception to this general rule for reputable law lists.


The Attorneys Directory, published by the Daily Transcript, is distributed free of charge to all attorneys of San Diego County. In addition, there are about 6,000 copies sold each year, the principal purchasers being County offices, banks, trust companies, title companies and collection agencies.

The law lists which are exceptions to the general rule of Canon 27 are typically defined as compilations of reliable lawyers in different cities who offer specialized services directly and only to other lawyers. Lists of this nature are limited to this function and are not for the use of the general public. An example of such a law list and the permissible inclusions is the Martindale-Hubbell Directory.

Bar Associations may publish rosters, registries, catalogues, or lists of their members with their names and addresses. These do not constitute law lists because there is no charge for listing and there is no suggestion that the names reflect availability for professional employment.

No data may appear in law lists except as is expressly authorized by Canon 27. The only specialties which may be displayed to the public are proctor, admiralty and patent law.

This opinion is advisory only. It is not binding upon the State Bar, the Board of Governors, its agents or employees.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Committee reviewed this opinion on October 1, 1976 and determined that the conclusion is still valid. The Canons cited are the old Canons; this subject is now covered by Canon 2 of the Code of Professional Responsibility of the A.B.A., and DR 2-101 and 2-102 thereunder. The State Bar of California has issued proposed amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct involving advertising. If these changes are approved by the Supreme Court, the conclusion of this opinion may be superseded.


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.