NYSBA Ethics Opinion 67

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Professional Ethics Committee Opinion

Opinion #67 – 01/08/1968 (29-67)

Topic: Advertising, Newspaper Publicity
Digest: Lawyer may not arrange newspaper publicity for client where lawyer’s name or picture would also appear
Canon: Former Canons 20, 27

QUESTION

An attorney inquires whether there is any ethical objection to his arranging, either on his own initiative or at the request of his client, for newspaper publicity in connection with a matter in which he is involved as counsel, which publicity includes the attorney’s name and picture.  He also asks whether he may ethically permit his picture to be taken when he knows it will be used by the newspaper together with his name in connection with a story concerning a legal matter in which he is involved.

OPINION

It is the Committee’s opinion that an attorney is prohibited from arranging newspaper publicity which includes the attorney’s name or picture in connection with matters in which he is involved as counsel, even in cases where the publicity is arranged at the request of his client.  Such conduct results in the indirect advertising prohibited by Canon 27, which provides in part that:”Indirect advertisements for professional employment such as furnishing or inspiring newspaper comments, or procuring his photograph to be published in connection with causes in which the lawyer has been or is engaged offend the traditions and lower the tone of our profession and are reprehensible “It is not improper for an attorney’s name and picture to appear in a newspaper as a normal incident to a news event in which he is involved but an attorney cannot ethically promote, inspire or encourage such publicity.  The American Bar Association in Opinion No. 140 answering an inquiry involving the publication in a local newspaper of what it termed an “evidently posed picture” of an attorney and his client with an accompanying story noted that:”It is highly improbable that this picture was taken, or that it was used, without the consent of the attorney.  Assuming his consent, the committee unhesitatingly condemns the attorney for improper solicitation.”In Opinion No. 42, the same Committee held that it was improper for an attorney to pose for a picture to be used in conjunction with a newspaper article concerning a divorce proceeding in which he was involved even where the court acquiesced in the conduct.  In Opinion No. 62, the same Committee held that where an attorney’s picture and an announcement of his practice in the city were published repeatedly by the newspaper, the attorney has the duty of requesting and requiring the newspaper to discontinue the publication even if originally done by the newspaper without his consent or encouragement. See also Canon 20 relating to litigated matters.

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