NYSBA Ethics Opinion 36

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STAT’E BAR ASSOCIATION
Professional Ethics Committee Opinion

Opinion #36 – 11/30/1966 (12-66)

Topic: Advertising, Announcement of Tax Specialization
Digest: Lawyers may send announcement of tax specialization to other lawyers only
Canon: None

QUESTION

S. is a New York attorney who has become increasingly active in tax matters.  Although not a certified public accountant, he has an accountancy background which is useful to him in the tax field.W. is a member of the Florida Bar, has no present practice, is a resident of New York who has passed the New York Bar examination and is waiting admission to the New York Bar.  He is presently employed on a full-time basis as a tax attorney for a large corporation located in New York.  Until quite recently he was one of the regional counsel with the Treasury Department handling tax matters and prior to that was a special agent for the Treasury Department.S. proposes to form a partnership with W., after his admission to the Bar in New York, for the sole purpose of practicing tax law.  The net profits from the tax practice will be shared equally by the two lawyers.  Any non-tax worked handled by S. will be continued to be handled by him on an individual basis and not by the partnership, and should general matters be brought in by W. in the future, he will either handle them himself or refer them to S.’s office on a non-partnership basis. At the outset, no letterhead for the firm is proposed and S. will continue to pay the rent and other office expenses, although later there may be some allocation of expenses between the two individuals.  The corporation with which W. is associate will know of the proposed association, which will not infringe on his full-time position with the corporation as W. will work for the partnership only in the evening and on weekends.After the admission of W. to the New York Bar, S. proposes to send out announcements to members of the Bar only, worded substantially as follows:

W.
(formerly regional counsel with the U.S. Treasury Department)
-and-
S.
both members of the New York Bar, announce their association specializing in tax practice at
The ___ Building
Suite 1622
New York, N. Y.

OPINION

Under the circumstances, the proposed form of notice is proper provided it is sent to lawyers only.It is not improper for an attorney returning to private practice from a government position, to state in his professional announcement the particular public office from which he is returning. “Such a statement should not go beyond naming the department or agency of the Government with which the attorney served and the title of the position which he held therein. The terms of the announcement and its physical setup should be such as to avoid any implication that the attorney is seeking to announce that he is specially qualified to handle matters dealt with by such agency or department or in which he gained experience while holding public office.  (Joint Opinion No. 375 of New York County Lawyers’ Association and The Association of the Bar of the City of New York.)A notice which states or implies a particular field of specialization, other than patents, trademark and admiralty law, is not permitted to be sent to laymen because it constitutes improper advertising or solicitation.  Since the partnership in this case will not, as such, engage in practice in any other field it would be improper not to mention the field of specialization, because to omit it would cause the announcement to imply that the lawyers are partners for other fields as well.  This would be a misrepresentation.  See Opinion No. 15 of this Association, published in the New York State Bar Journal of August, 1966, page 381.

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