Ethics Opinions

Opinion No. 76-27

Summary: A lawyer may properly print and make available in his office in the same manner as MBA pamphlets a "Guide to Legal Fees and Services" which describes (without any dollar amount) flat rate fees, per hour fees, and contingent fees. It also lists the types of charges for expenses, payable in addition to the charges for professional fees, and discusses billing procedures, including retainers, documentation of time, and statements.

Facts: A lawyer proposes to print at his own expense a "Guide to Legal Fees and Services" in pamphlet form, with his name and office address and telephone number. They will be in the same size and shape as the MBA pamphlets now being distributed in his office; they will be available only as are the other MBA pamphlets; and no general mailing of them is proposed.
This "Guide," after quoting a part of EC 2-18 on the determination of the reasonableness of a fee, goes on: "As a client of this office we wish to advise you of the basis of our professional fees and charges for expenses, and of our billing procedures."
It then describes (without any dollar amounts) flat rate fees, per hour rates, and contingent fees. It lists the types of charges for expenses, payable in addition to the charges for professional fees, which for the average case normally do not exceed $25 to $30. Finally, it discusses billing procedures, including retainers, documentation of time, and statements.
The lawyer asks whether he may properly do this.

Discussion: Since the pamphlets in question will not be distributed or made available except to clients and others who come to the lawyer's office on business, no questions as to general publicity, advertising, or recommendation or suggestion of need for legal services under DR 2-101 to 2-104 inclusive are involved. (We note parenthetically that the amendments to the ABA Code of Professional Responsibility permitting advertising of fee schedules in certain circumstances have not been recommended by our Board of Delegates to the Supreme Judicial Court for adoption here, nor have they been adopted.)
We find no provisions of the Disciplinary Rules in our S.J.C. General Rule 3:22 which deal with this matter. EC 2-19 provides: "As soon as feasible after a lawyer has been employed, it is desirable that he reach a clear agreement with his client as to the basis of the fee charges to be made." Obviously, a person considering employing a lawyer may properly ask about "the basis of the fee charges" which the lawyer will propose.
We therefore conclude that printing and distribution of the proposed "Guide to Legal Fees and Services" in the manner proposed by the lawyer is ethically proper. We would further note our own opinion that this is a practice which should be encouraged. As EC 2-19 further states: "A lawyer should be mindful that many persons who desire to employ him may have had little or no experience with fee charges for lawyers, and for this reason he should explain fully to such persons the reasons for the particular fee arrangement he proposes."
Since we have concluded that our Disciplinary Rules do not prohibit the proposed distribution of the "Guide," our answer to this inquirer is in no way dependent upon whether the decision in Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Council, 96 S. Ct. 1817 (1976) holding a state statute prohibiting licensed pharmacists from publishing or advertising the price of any prescription drug has any application to lawyers. We would further note that the proposed "Guide" does not quote a dollar figure for any of the types of legal services covered, and therefore the Virginia State Board holding would not be applicable to it in any event.


Permission to publish granted by the Board of Delegates, 1976. As stated in the Rules of the Committee on Professional Ethics, this advice is that of a committee without official governmental status.
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