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Ethics Opinion

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CI-788

July 9, 1982

SYLLABUS

    A lawyer may properly advertise a discounted legal services program by mailing to the general public, provided the advertising is not false, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive. The use of a trade name in an otherwise proper advertisement is ethical provided the names of the lawyers or law firm using the particular name appears in conjunction with the advertisement.

    References: Administrative Order 1978-4, C-218, CI-405.

TEXT

Inquire has been made as to whether the mailing of a brochure regarding the "25/25" Legal Protection plan, to the general public, would constitute a violation of the Code or Professional Responsibility and Canons.

The Michigan Supreme Court has adopted the following standard in Administrative Order 1978-4:

    "A lawyer may on behalf of himself or herself, a 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." Emphasis added.

The Order places no restriction of the mode of communication. The following language from C-218 indicates a mailing to the general public as the mode of communication is appropriate:

    An attorney may properly advertise his or her legal services by mail. Such advertising will not constitute impermissible solicitation if it is general in nature and is not directed to or intended for potential clients with an identified present need for legal services."

Analyzing the Administrative Order together with C-218, the mailing of the brochure regarding The "25/25" Legal Protection Plan, is permissible advertising provided it meets the following requirements:

  1. The communication is not false, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive;

  2. The advertising is general in nature and not directed to a particular class of individuals.

A careful perusal of the brochure fails to indicate any communication that is false, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive. The brochure clearly delineates the particular type of legal services that are available through the Plan; the types of services that are not covered by said option; and a specific price for a specific period of time.

A possible issue with respect to the propriety of the proposed brochure might be whether The "25/25" Legal Protection Plan is a permissible use of a trade name. CI-405 is instructive in this regard and states:

    "The use of a trade name by a lawyer in private practice could be misleading and to avoid the inference that a trade name is misleading, the names of the lawyers of law firm using the particular name should be clearly associated with its use.

    "The use of a trade name in an otherwise proper advertisement is not unethical so long as the name or names of the lawyers or law firm using the particular name appear in conjunction with the advertisement."

It is suggested that the advertising material be modified as follows:

  1. Delete the characterization of the program being a "pre-paid legal service program."

  2. Delete the following statement in the promotional material; "if you refer an applicant who becomes a member of the program, we will waive your next enrollment fee in full." This should be deleted because it may constitute a violation of DR 2-103(B) prohibiting a lawyer from compensation or giving anything of value to a person to recommend or secure the lawyer's employment.

 
     

 

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