Ethics Opinion 196

By Committee on Professional Ethics

Ethics Opinion 196

Professional Ethics Committee Opinions

Opinion #196 – 09/30/1971 (30-71)

Topic:  Newspaper Publicity
Digest: Newspaper “releases” of attorney attending professional meeting improper
Code:  EC 2-2; DR 2-101 (A)


May a lawyer attending a seminar, symposia convention, or other professional meeting release or cooperate in the furnishing of information as to his attendance to a newspaper?


The question must be answered in the negative.EC 2-2 provides:”The legal profession should assist laymen to recognize legal problems because such problems may not be self-revealing and often are not timely noticed. Therefore, lawyers acting under proper auspices should encourage and participate in educational and public relations programs concerning our legal system with particular reference to legal problems that frequently arise. Such educational programs should be motivated by a desire to benefit the public rather than to obtain publicity or employment for particular lawyers. Examples of permissible activities include preparation of institutional advertisements and professional articles for lay publications and participation in seminars, lectures, and civic programs. But a lawyer who participates in such activities should shun personal publicity.DR 2-101 (A) provides:”A lawyer shall not prepare, cause to be prepared, use, or participate in the use, of any form of public communication that contains professionally self-laudatory statements calculated to attract lay clients; as used herein, ‘public communication’ includes, but is not limited to, communication by means of television, radio, motion picture, newspaper, magazine, or book.”Past opinions permitting a release do not conflict with EC 2-2 as they concern the lawyer who is a major participant in the seminar or other activity and who would otherwise “shun personal publicity”, but who may permit his name to be used if “motivated by a desire to benefit the public rather than to obtain publicity or employment for particular lawyers.” ABA Inf. 840 (1965); ABA Inf. 1135 (1970).An attorney may not promote, inspire, or encourage a newspaper to publish a report regarding his individual attendance at a conference or symposium on a particular field of law, emphasizing the name of the lawyer, the importance of the field of law and the importance of skill in such field. N.Y. State 100 (1969).The Code did not change Matter of Connelly, 18 A.D. 2d 466, 478, 240 N.Y.S. 2d 126, 138, (1st Dept. 1963) which stated in part:”There can be no justification for the participation and acquiescence by an attorney in the development and publication of an article which, on its face, plainly amounts to a self-interest and unethical presentation of his achievements and capabilities…. What is wrong is for the lawyer to augment by artificial stimulus the publicity normally resulting from what he does, seeing to it that his successes are broadcast and magnified.”

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