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Ethics Opinion

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CI-774

May 15, 1982

SYLLABUS

    It is permissible for a law firm to address a general mailing to financial institutions not known to have a specific, identifiable need for a lawyer to handle a specific, known matter, announcing the firm's availability to do legal work and inviting inquiry.

TEXT

Lawyer X's law firm, with principal offices located in city A Michigan, practices extensively on behalf of financial institutions in that county, and the law firm has recently opened a branch in city B. Lawyer X would like to make known to the financial institutions in C county that he or she is available for "these rather specialized types of legal services" and that lawyer X could "possibly offer somewhat lower costs due to economies of scale." Lawyer X wishes to invite these potential clients to discuss the services.

The united States Supreme Court held in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 US 3350; 53 L Ed 2d 810; 97 S Ct 2691 (1977), that truthful advertising of legal services is protected by the United States Constitution. Subsequently, the Michigan Supreme Court issued Administrative Order 1978-4, which states:

    "A lawyer may, on behalf of himself or herself, partner or associate, or any other lawyer affiliated with him or her firm use or participate in the use of any form of public deceptive. Except for DR 2-103 and DR 2-104, Disciplinary Rules in conflict with this Order are suspended for a period of one year."

By subsequent Administrative Orders, the Court has continued this order in effect "until further order of the Court."

This specific inquiry is answered by C-218. Lawyer X's proposed communication is sufficiently general in nature and leaves the recipient wholly free to respond or not according to his or her own judgment. It does not fall within the prohibition against directing advertisement to specific potential clients with an identified present need for legal services, and therefore constitutes permissible advertising of the availability of attorney services.

Parenthetically, it is noted that the proposed letter begins with the phrase "Dear Client. Obviously, inasmuch as those persons to whom this communication is to be addressed are not, in fact, clients, but only prospective clients, such use of that phrase if improper. The letter should, instead, be addressed to the specific institution involved, or some other phrase should be chosen which does not suggest that these entities are clients of the firm.

 
     

 

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