Ethics Opinion 1975-7

May 19, 1975



Whether an attorney may ethically use a business card which contains a representation of an apothecary scales in gold leaf approximately one-half inch high in addition to the normal information provided on such card?


No. To use such a symbol would be both a violation of Rule 2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of California and not in keeping with the American Bar Association Code of Professional Responsibility, section DR 2-102(A)(1).


California Rule 2 states:

Section a. A member of the State Bar shall not solicit professional employment by advertisement or otherwise

Section 6. Nothing in this rule shall be deemed to prevent the use, in the usual and customary manner, of ordinary professional cards . . . .

The American Bar Association Code of Professional Responsibility states:

DR 2-102(A) A lawyer or law firm shall not use professional cards . . . except that the following may be used if they are in dignified form:

(1) A professional card of a lawyer identifying him by name and as a lawyer, and giving his addresses, telephone numbers, and name of his law firm, and any information permitted under DR 2-105 [not relevant to this inquiry].


There are no opinions, formal or informal, dealing specifically with symbols on professional cards. The latest "symbol" opinion (A.B.A. Informal Opinion No. 1222, April 24, 1972) reanalyzed the wearing of the A.B.A. symbol or State Bar symbol on personal jewelry and the use of the A.B.A. symbol on a postage meter. These opinions are not deemed relevant to this inquiry.


California Rule 2 is framed in a prohibitive sense and provides an exception in Section 6 for business cards used "in the usual and customary manner, of ordinary professional cards." The ordinary business card used in this community consists of a black on white rectangular card with the attorney's name, address, telephone number and professional status printed thereon. No other ornamentation or symbol appears on the ordinary professional card.

The Code of Professional Responsibility likewise limits the information which may appear on an attorney's professional card. The acceptable information does not include symbols.

On this basis we do not believe the representation in question may be ethically used on a business card.

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

EDITOR'S NOTE: California Rule 2 is now found in Rules 2-101 through 2-104. The State Bar has issued proposed changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct involving advertising; the amendments, if approved by the Supreme Court in their present form, would still require that business cards be in "modest and dignified form."


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.