State Bar of Michigan
home member area contact us


 print this page

for members
SBM general information

member directory

admissions, ethics, and

diversity & inclusion

justice initiatives

member services

practice management
   resource center

public policy resource

publications and

research and links

sections & committees

ethics for members
ethics developments
ethics opinions
TAON (trust accounts)

from the courts
opinion searching
virtual court

for the public
public resources
media resources

giving opportunities
a lawyer helps
access to justice

Ethics Opinion

print this page


September 1, 1983


    As long as there is no already identified need for legal services, a lawyer may send advertising to businesses and to other lawyers indicating his or her availability to be retained in labor law matters.

    References: C-218; Administrative Order 1978-4.


This inquiry concerns a plan by a lawyer to advertise his/her availability to assist small and medium size businesses in labor law matters. Additionally, the lawyer plans to send announcements to law firms indicating his/her availability to act "Of Counsel" to the firm in labor law matters.

The Michigan Supreme Court adopted the following standard in Administrative Order 1989-4:

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

The Order places no restriction on the mode of communication. The following language from C-218 provides that a mailing to the general public 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."

C-218 further provides that direct solicitation to a targeted class of potential clients, as opposed to the general public or general group of businesses needing such legal services, is not permissible:

    "Applying these general concepts, the Committee concludes that direct mail communications from an attorney (like communications using any other mode) may not be directed to, or be intended for, potential clients with an identified present need for legal services. To be permissible, communications must be general in nature, making known the service available from the attorney-sender, along with such other information as may be within the purview of Administrative Order 1978-4, such fees and costs, office hours, etc., leaving the recipient wholly free to respond or not according to his or her own judgment."

Thus, in order for a mass mailing to be proper, it must meet the C-218 test that distinguishes between "general" and "specific" mailings. The market which he or she seeks will measure the conduct of a lawyer in advertising to contact or influence. For example, if the lawyer obtained a list of companies whose labor contracts were due to expire in the next 60 days and then "targeted" them for a mailing, such conduct would not be ethically proper. Similarly, if a class action lawsuit claiming sex discrimination were filed against a number of businesses in an industry, it would not be appropriate for the lawyer to contact the businesses involved in the litigation to advise them of his or her knowledge of employment discrimination law. Such a mailing would be inappropriate because the businesses would have an already identified need for a specific service.

On the other hand, if the mailing were sent to all the businesses located in a particular ZIP code, this would probably be permissible even though, in a sense, the lawyer was "targeting" the mailing based upon an identified geographic location. A mailing sent to businesses all in one industry, such as dry cleaners or tropical fish stores, would probably be permissible. Again, although the businesses were "targeted," the design of the mailing campaign was not to contact businesses with an already identified need for a specific service.

A lawyer may send announcements to law firms concerning his or her availability to act "Of Counsel" in labor law matters. It is noted that the client must be informed and consent to any "of counsel" retainer. The possible abuses of advertising that might occur with the public are less likely to occur since law firms are a more sophisticated consumer of legal services.



follow us
Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on LinkedIn Follow Us on Twitter Follow the SBM Blog


©Copyright 2015

website links
Contact Us
Site Map
Website Privacy Statement PDF
Staff Links

SBM on the Mapcontact information
State Bar of Michigan
306 Townsend St
Lansing, MI 48933-2012
Phone: (517) 346-6300
Toll Free: (800) 968-1442
Fax: (517) 482-6248