SOLICITATIONADVERTISEMENTSMEMBERSHIP IN A CHAMBER OF COMMERCE WHICH LISTS ITS MEMBERS IN A MEMBERSHIP DIRECTORY ACCORDING TO THE OCCUPATIONAL CLASSIFICATION OF THE MEMBERSIt is not unethical for a lawyer to belong to a Chamber of Commerce which in its membership directory lists its members according to the occupational classification of the members, in addition to an alphabetical listing is not a paid advertisement and where the lawyer joined the organization for a civic purpose and not for personal advertisement.
The Chamber of Commerce of a Texas city solicits memberships from lawyers as well as from business men. The lawyers who have joined the organization have done so on the basis that they are doing a community service and not for the purpose of soliciting business. The Chamber of Commerce publishes a directory of its membership, divided into several sections. One section is an "Alphabetical Section," listing all members, with indication of the occupation of each, together with address and telephone number. The other eleven sections as a group are identified as "Classified Sections." For example, one section lists "Contractors," another "retail Trade," and another "Government Offices." One section is entitled "Business and Professional Services." It is subdivided into Accountants, Advertising, Artists, Attorneys, Chemists, Collection Agencies, Dentists, Engineers, Photography, Physicians, Patent Attorneys, Veterinarians and other business and professional groups.
Members pay membership dues. All members are listed in some classified section of the directory as well as in the alphabetical section. No member pays anything for the listing in the classified section, and the listing of one member is not distinctive from another in the same subsection. The directory does contain many displaying advertisements (some of which are in the form of business cards), for which charge is made, but no lawyer has used or paid for an advertisement. The listing in the classified section of the lawyers results solely from membership in the Chamber of Commerce.
Is it unethical for an attorney to be listed in this manner in the classified section of the directory?
As a general rule a lawyer may not publish any advertisement. See Texas Canon 24. Even though the information contained in the classified section is only that which would normally appear on a professional calling card or in a telephone directory listing, its publication by a lawyer would be unprofessional. See Texas Opinion 214. And of course, indirect solicitation and indirect advertising is forbidden. See A.B.A. Opinion 292 (October 15, 1957).
However, in the present situation the lawyer did not publish the classified listing. He caused it to be published only in the sense that his joining the Chamber of Commerce caused it to be published in the normal course of the operation of that organization. While it is unfortunate that the civic organization sees fit to list professional people such as physicians, lawyers and dentists in such a commercial fashion, in view of the established practice the real question is whether an attorney may join the Chamber of Commerce under such conditions.
A similar problem confronted this committee in regard to the purchase by a lawyer of a city directory, and in Opinion 138 it was stated that the publishers method of conducting business "is not approved" but the conduct of the lawyer under the circumstances was not improper. Also see Opinion 175.
Other organizations, including some churches and some well-known civic clubs, from time to time list members according to occupation. While it may be improper for a lawyer to join any organization for the purpose of such a listing or for the purpose of advertising or of soliciting business, at the same time it must be recognized that, broadly speaking, a lawyer has a responsibility to participate in civic and community affairs. Accordingly, it is not unethical for a lawyer to be a member of a Chamber of Commerce which lists its membership in the manner described.
In regard to the listing of attorneys under the heading of "Patent Attorneys," attention is called to Texas Opinions 127 and 200, and A.B.A. Opinion 203. (9-0.)