Ethics Opinions

Opinion No. 76-8

August 1976

Summary: A law firm may mail a brief professional announcement card stating new or changed associations or addresses, change of firm name, or similar matters pertaining to its personnel in the form permitted by DR 2-102(A)(2), to as many lawyers as it wishes whether or not the firm has had prior professional dealings or relations with them.

Facts: A law firm asks whether, in sending out the professional announcement cards permitted by DR 2-102(A)(2) to other lawyers, it is improper to mail the card to lawyers with whom the firm has had no prior professional dealings or relations.

Discussion: DR 2-102(A)(2) provides brief professional cards (as therein defined) "which may be mailed to lawyers, clients, former clients, personal friends, and relatives." It contains no limitations on the lawyers to whom the card may be mailed.
The inquiry of the law firm is prompted by ABA Committee on Professional Ethics Formal Opinion No. 301, November 27, 1961, construing former Canon of Professional Ethics 27, providing that "the customary use of simple professional cards is not improper." In discussing the use of such a card, the ABA Committee said:
It should go to attorneys and former clients [where government employee becomes a partner], and to other persons with whom the returning attorney has a personal relationship such as to make it clear that they would be interested in knowing that he is back; but not, of course, to persons with whom he has had no professional dealings or relations and to whom such an announcement would be merely a suggestion that he be employed.
We do not construe the last clause of this sentence as limiting the "attorneys" to whom the card may go to attorneys with whom the lawyer has had prior professional dealings or relations. Sending such a card to other lawyers is analogous to the "listing in a reputable law list" for the use of all other lawyers, which is permitted by DR 2-102 (A)(6). Lawyers generally are naturally interested in the "matters pertaining to the professional office" of other lawyers, and wide distribution by mail of such information to members of the legal profession is clearly in the public interest. We would further note that the general language of former Canon 27 construed in Formal Opinion 301--"customary use of simple professional cards"--has been amplified in DR 2-102 (A)(2) to allow mailing of the cards to "lawyers," without limitation of any kind.

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.