84-F-63 - Advertising fees for routine services

 

BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE

FORMAL ETHICS OPINION 84-F-63


Inquiry is made concerning the propriety of advertising the prices at which certain routine services will be performed without including the disclaimer provided for in Disciplinary Rule 2-101(C).

The proposed advertising contemplated in the inquiry is as follows:

Divorce - both sign ------------------------ $ 65
Individual Non-Business Chap 7 Bankruptcy -- $175
Avoid Lien --------------------------------- $ 40
Adoption ----------------------------------- $200
(NAME OF ATTORNEY) (TELEPHONE NUMBER)

On February 22, 1976, the Legal Clinic of Bates and O'Steen placed the following advertisement in the Arizona Republic daily newspaper in Phoenix:

Divorce or legal separation-uncontested (both spouses sign papers)
$175 plus $20 court filing fee
Preparation of all court papers and instructions on how to
do your own simple uncontested divorce $100
Adoption - uncontested severance proceeding
$225 plus approximately $10 publication cost
Bankruptcy - non-business, no contested proceedings
Individual
$250 plus $55 court filing fee
Wife and Husband
$300 plus $110 court filing fee
Change of name
$95 plus $20 court filing fee

The Arizona Supreme Court censured the attorneys because the advertisement was prohibited by their Code of Professional Responsibility.

The Supreme Court of the United States, in considering the First Amendment Rights of the attorneys to commercial speech in the case of Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, stated on pages 367 and 368:

The heart of the dispute before us today is whether lawyers may constitutionally advertise the prices at which certain routine services will be performed.

And on page 384:

The constitutional issue in this case is only whether the State may prevent the publication in a newspaper of appellant's truthful advertising concerning the availability and terms of routine legal services. We rule simply that the flow of such information may not be restrained, ....

Ethical Consideration 2-3 of the Tennessee Code of Professional Responsibility, as amended on March 9, 1983, states:

Nothing in this Code shall be construed to ... prohibit the publication of fees for the performance of routine legal services.

The publication and advertising of prices at which certain routine services will be performed does not require including the disclaimer provided for in Disciplinary Rule 2-101(C) of the Tennessee Code of Professional Responsibility.

This 18th day of January, 1984.

ETHICS COMMITTEE:

O. B. Hofstetter, Jr.
F. Evans Harvill
William R. Willis

APPROVED AND ADOPTED BY THE BOARD