Ethics Opinion 089

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Professional Ethics Committee Opinion

Opinion #89 – 10/07/1968 (22-68)
Topic: Articles

Digest: Publication of legal articles in newspapers and magazines
Canons: Former Canons 40, 27

QUESTION

May an attorney write a series of unsolicited articles on legal subjects in lay magazines and newspapers?

OPINION

It is the opinion of the Committee that it would be proper for an attorney to write such articles.Canon 40 of the Canons of Professional Ethics expressly states that “a lawyer may with propriety write articles for publication in which he gives information upon the law.”  This Canon has been interpreted by many bar associations, see ABA 92, ABA In­formal 228, ABA 463, 538, 743; New York City Bar Association 270, 859; New York County Lawyers 264, 396, 516.  All of these opinions permit the publication of articles provided they are of a general nature.  The writing may be done with or without compensation, ABA 92; New York City 270.Under no circumstances may the writer-lawyer answer even anonymously inquiries for advice in newspapers or other publications.  Canon 40, ABA 270, ABA Informal 538.Neither should the writing be in any way self laudatory since this would have the effect of being indirect advertising in violation of Canon 27. (See Drinker on Ethics, p. 264).  City Bar opinion 859 states:”When a lawyer himself writes a book, article or script, the material should not contain statements which praise or emphasize the lawyer’s ability or skills, or statements which describe the lawyer in laudatory terms or as having prominent clients or special success in any branch of the law.”The writer-lawyer should also avoid any suggestion of puffing in the biographical material accompanying the article.  It should be limited to a short statement that he is a member of the Bar of the State who has written or lectured on legal subjects. (New York County 516).  See also EC 2-5 & DR 2-104(A)(4).

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