OPINION 425
May 1985

Question Presented

A lawyer plans to write a newspaper column on taxation in order to educate the public. The column will contain a disclaimer as to certification by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and the lawyer will not give advice or answer questions in the column. Is this activity controlled or prohibited by DR 2-101, DR 2-103, or DR 2-104?

Discussion

DR 2-103 deals with the recommendation of professional employment, and is not relevant to the publication of a newspaper article if the lawyer does not recommend his or his partners' or associates' employment.

DR 2-104 is concerned with claims of expertise in the areas of patent law and trademark law, referral services, and legal directories, and is inapplicable to the publication of a newspaper column on taxation.

DR 2-101 covers publicity and advertising. The main thrust of DR 2-101 provides for acceptable methods of advertising. It is unclear whether DR 2-101 would deal with the publication of an educational newspaper column. If it does apply, disclosure of the name of the attorney and a disclaimer of expert status as provided in DR 2-101(C) comply with DR 2-101.

The education of the public is encouraged by the Code of Professional Responsibility. EC 2-1 states that an important function of the legal profession is to educate laymen to recognize their legal problems. EC 2-2 provides that lawyers should encourage and participate in such educational programs, with the desire being to benefit the public rather than to attain publicity and employment for particular lawyers. EC 2-2 lists permissible educational activities, and professional articles for lay publications, which would include newspaper columns, are included. EC 2-2 adds that the lawyer participating in such activities should shun personal publicity.

EC 2-5 cautions that a lawyer in educating the public in the recognition of legal problems should be careful to avoid giving the impression that a general solution is applicable to all similar problems, since the different fact situations obviously vary the proper advice. Therefore, writings by lawyers for laymen should caution them not to attempt to solve individual problems upon the basis of the information given. The newspaper column should so caution its readers and avoid the dangers of problems referred to above.

Conclusion

Educating the public through a newspaper column, with the proper disclaimer and disclosure, is permitted and in fact encouraged under the Code. The column should carefully avoid giving the public the impression that a general solution is applicable to all similar fact patterns, and should caution laymen not to attempt to solve their problems upon the basis of information contained therein. (9-0)