Ethics Opinions

Opinion No. 76-35

Summary: Attorneys may identify themselves as attorneys by name and address in a probate citation published in a newspaper as required by law.

Facts: Some attorneys in a particular county in Massachusetts add their names and addresses to probate citations obtained from the probate court for the purpose of publication of the citation in a newspaper for three successive weeks. The committee has been asked whether or not this practice involves any ethical impropriety.
Discussion: Although the Canons of Ethics and Disciplinary Rules as adopted by the Supreme Judicial Court generally prohibit attorneys from publicizing themselves, DR 2-101(B), the proscription is attended by express exceptions, one of which is pertinent here.
[T]his rule does not prohibit limited and dignified identification of a lawyer as a lawyer as well as by name: ...
(2) In public notices when the name and profession of a lawyer are required or authorized by law or are reasonably pertinent for a purpose other than the attraction of potential clients.
We have previously noted that a lawyer may be identified as such in promotional materials relating to his or her availability as a public lecturer where disclosure of one's profession is reasonably pertinent for a purpose other than the attraction of potential clients. Opinion No. 74-7. We likewise note the applicability of DR 2-101(B)(2) to the facts here presented. Although one may argue that a person reading a probate citation and wishing to object may do so by contacting the court directly rather than the attorney, the disciplinary rule permits identification of an attorney where reasonably pertinent although perhaps not absolutely necessary to the purpose of the notice. We believe that a limited and dignified identification of a lawyer as such in connection with a probate citation serves a purpose other than the attraction of potential clients. We arrive at our conclusion after an examination of the nature of the notice, the purpose which it serves, and the audience such notice is likely to reach.


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.
©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association