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Ethics Opinion

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May 10, 1982


    A lawyer may advertise the availability of professional services in a local newspaper to others that may be willing to pay for them with something of value other than case.


A lawyer purchased a home in need of repair and is capable or performing the labor, however, economic constraints limit the lawyer's capacity to purchase the necessary materials. The lawyer wishes to barter legal services in exchange for windows, drywall and lumber required to make the dwelling habitable. In this connection, the lawyer propose placing a general advertisement in a local newspaper to the effect:

    "Wanted: Home repair materials including three insulated windows one insulated sliding glass door, drywall sheets and moldings.
    Attorney located in *** will barter legal services in exchange for same.
    Call daytime - 222-222
    Call evening - 333-333."

The exchange of legal services for building materials is merely a one-time trade, and no continuing bartering is contemplated. The inquirer wishes to know if the business arrangement is ethically permissible.

There appear to be no ethical prohibition preventing a lawyer from participating in the time-honored practice of swapping services for goods or other services in place of buying or selling for cash. In ABA Formal Opinion 38, the American Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics acknowledged that a lawyer could properly accept and use an annual railroad pas given by a client as partial compensation for services.

The current rule for advertising legal services is governed by Michigan Supreme Court Administrative Order 1978-4, suspending most of the Disciplinary Rules on lawyer advertising. The Order provides in part:

    "A lawyer may on behalf of himself or herself, partner or associate, or any other lawyer affiliated with him or her or his or her firm, use or participate in the use of any form of public communication that is not false, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive . . . ."

Pursuant to that Order, the Committee has ruled in a number of prior opinions that a lawyer may advertise legal services by any means, to the extent that the publicized information is truthful.

Accordingly, the Committee holds that you may advertise the availability of your professional services to others who may wish to pay for them with something of value other than cash.



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