81-F-17 - Propriety of a law firm producing a manual about the law firm

 

BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE

FORMAL ETHICS OPINION 81-F-17

 

The Board has been asked to issue a formal opinion, pursuant to Section 26 of Rule 9 of the Supreme Court, as to the propriety of a law firm producing a manual setting out the firm's policies and facilities and a biographical sketch of the attorneys. It would include, among other things, the name and address of the firm, telephone number, a map showing accessible parking, photographs and biographical data on all attorneys, and discussions of scheduling work, confidentiality, conflict of interest, available research tools and fees (although no schedule would be set forth). There would be no disclaimer.

The manual would be used to provide information to clients, to others who have made an initial contact seeking representation by the firm, and it is stated, "There would be no effect on the firm's responsibilities if a client possessing a manual gave it to someone else."

Lawyer advertising entails public notice of availability of services at specified rates for purpose of informing the public and assisting the public in making an informed choice. Soliciting, on the other hand, connotes an act of entreaty to obtain a particular business transaction, a personal petition to a particular individual to do a particular thing. See Koffler v. Joint Bar Assn., 412 N. E. (2d) 927, 51 N. Y. (2d) 140, 432 N. Y. S. (2d) 872, 875; and Knobel v. Estate of Eugene A. Hoffman, Inc., 432 N. Y. S. (2d) 66, 68.

In any event, the proposed manual and distribution thereof do not fall within the ambit of permissible advertising as laid down in the Code of Professional Responsibility (Rule 8 of the Supreme Court Rules), particularly DR 2-101 and DR 2-103, and the Court's 1978 Opinion In re: Petition for Rule of Court Governing Lawyer Advertising, 564 S. W. (2d) 638.

In its memorandum in support of its request for a formal opinion, the firm concedes the applicability of DR 2-101, yet overlooks the restrictions set forth therein. For the above reasons, we do not believe that the production and dissemination of the proposed manual constitute proper professional conduct at this time.

This 26th day of August, 1981.

ETHICS COMMITTEE:

Joseph G. Cummings
F. Evans Harvill
John R. Rucker

APPROVED AND ADOPTED BY THE BOARD