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Ethics Opinion

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February 12, 1981


    It is ethically proper for a lawyer to disseminate advertisement literature which promotes a lawyer's other businesses, where the lawyer's qualifications in those other businesses are related to the law practice. Said disseminated literature must not be false, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive.

    It is ethically improper to utilize a "lawyer-at law" signature identification contained in a letter written by a lawyer on said lawyer's other business' stationary.


Your letter seeking an informal opinion of the State Bar of Michigan, Professional and Judicial Ethics Committee has been referred to the undersigned for a response. Specifically, you wish to know if it would be ethically proper for you to include in your Insurance business advertisements the fact that you are a licensed lawyer in the State of Michigan. In addition, you request a ruling whether it would be ethically appropriate for letters written on your Insurance business stationary to include in the signature line the words "Lawyer at Law."

Given the present status of the Advertising Rules, lawyers are free to disseminate just about any information concerning themselves and or their practice so long as the information is not false, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive. Under the current Rule (order 1978-4) it is apparent that a lawyer could advertise other businesses in which he/she engages in where the qualifications in those other businesses are related to his/her law practice skills. In the instant case you indicate that you have ownership interest in the advertised Insurance enterprise and as such you can then exercise complete control over the use of the legal identification and designation contained in said materials. It is the opinion of the undersigned that the subject advertisement materials meet the said qualification test and therefore per se would not be violative of the ethics code.

However, it is the author's opinion that any letter signature designation of "Lawyer at Law" written on your insurance stationary would be ethically improper. It is imperative that lawyers avoid any and all appearances of possible deceptive practices in their disseminated written communications.

Although this opinion has been prepared by the undersigned, it has been circulated to other committee members for their concurrence prior to its release to you.



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