Ethics Opinion 204

By Committee on Professional Ethics

Ethics Opinion 204

Professional Ethics Committee Opinions

Opinion #204 – 10/26/1971 (37-71)

Topic: Authorship by Attorney of Educational Legal Cassette
Digest: Attorney may participate in a legal educational series commercially sponsored
Code: EC 2-2 DR 2-101(B) (5); 2-105 (A) (1); 2-105(A) (4)


May an attorney be retained by a corporation to prepare a series of cassette tapes on legal subjects where the corporation sponsors seminars, presents in-house programs and publishes books and cassettes relating to aspects of corporate management including a cassette series devoted to “business law for corporate executives” designed to assist management in identifying situations in which legal assistance is required?


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(B)(5) permits a limited and dignified identification of a lawyer as a lawyer as well as by name in and on legal textbooks, treatises, and other legal publications, and in dignified advertisements thereof. There appears to be no reason to exclude a cassette treating a legal subject for educational purposes from being considered as a “treatise” or a “legal publication”. Accordingly, it would not be improper for a lawyer to accept employment to author such a cassette provided that the preparation and use thereof by a responsible sponsor conform to proper standards.Neither the cassettes nor any advertisement thereof, any material supplied in connection therewith, nor any sales effort may contain any laudatory statement regarding the attorney, his partners, his associates, or his firm. Nor should he be designated as a specialist, or as limiting his practice. Only the lawyer’s name and the fact that he is a lawyer may be given. The sponsor should agree to comply with these restrictions.ABA Inf. 1179 (1971) finds nothing unethical in lawyers participating in an educational program on “Uses of Life Insurance in Estate Planning” being prepared under the auspices of the American Law Institute and the American Bar Association to be exhibited on the National Educational Television network, if “appropriate restrictions”, similar to those above stated, are met. The opinion also holds that the fact of commercial sponsorship does not in and of itself make the participation of lawyers improper. See also, ABA Inf. 230(g) (1961); ABA Inf. 1094 (1969); ABA Inf. 1136 (1969); N.Y. State 89 (1968); N.Y. State 190 (1971); N.Y. County 516 (1963); N.Y. City 668 (1944).

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