Opinion 221
March 1959

ADVERTISING—SOLICITATION—ANNOUNCEMENT OF CHANGE OF OFFICE LOCATIONAn attorney may properly mail to his regular clients a simple printed announcement of a change in location of his office.  He may not publish such an announcement in a newspaper.  The attorney may not mail such announcement to a general mailing list in the community, which list includes persons or firms not his regular clients, unless the announcement is "warranted by personal relations" with the non-clients.

SOLICITATION—PROFESSIONAL CARD—An attorney may properly list his telephone number in a simple printed announcement of a change in his office location mailed to his regular clients or to non-clients where "warranted by personal relations," but he may not list his office hours.

ANNOUNCEMENTS—NOTICE OF SPECIALIZATION LEGAL SERVICE—ADVERTISING A SEPARATE NON-LEGAL BUSINESSAn attorney may not include a reference to "title insurance service" in a simple printed announcement of a change in office location mailed to his regular clients or to non-clients where "warranted by personal relations," whether "title insurance service" refers to a specialized law practice or to a business separate from his law practice.

ADVERTISINGAn attorney, one of several in a community, may not designate the building, which he owns and in which he offices, "Law Building" where no other lawyer or public or court official maintains an office in the building, none of the other tenants are engaged in occupations having any connection with the legal profession, and no other lawyer or association of lawyers owns any interest in the building.

SOLICIATATION—ESTATES—NOTICES TO CREDITORS—NEWSPAPERSThe signing by an attorney for an estate of a published notice to creditors of the estate is permitted and contemplated by law; does not constitute solicitation of professional employment; and is therefore proper and ethical.

Canons 24, 39, 41.

Question

1.(a) May an attorney properly mail to his regular clients a printed announcement of a change in location of his law office, utilizing the following wording:

"John Doe Attorney at Law announces the removal of his law offices from: 101 White Building
to: 101 Black Building Smalltown, Texas January 1, 1959"

 (b) May an attorney properly publish the above announcement in a local newspaper?

 (c) May an attorney properly mail the above announcement to a general mailing list in his community (or area of practice), which list includes persons in firms not his regular clients?

 (d)  Would it make any difference in either (a), (b), or (c) above if the attorney adds to the announcement his telephone number and his office hours?

 (e)  Would it make any difference in the above situations if the announcement refers to removal of the law offices "and title insurance service"?

 2.  An attorney purchases a building in the town where he practices, which building has not theretofore been designated by a formal name.  He remodels the building, designates it as "Law Building," and establishes his office therein.

There are approximately fifteen licensed attorneys in the community.  No law offices other than the owner's are established in the building, and no other lawyer or association of lawyers own any interest in the building.  None of the tenants are engaged in occupations having any connection with the legal profession.  No public or court official has an office in the building.

 Does the attorney violate any of the Canons of Ethics by so designating the building under these circumstances?

 3.  An attorney causes notices to creditors of estates which he handles to be published in a local newspaper in a form which advises all persons having claims against the estate to present such claim to the executor, guardian, etc., in care of the attorney who is identified by name and mailing address in the body of the notices.  The notices indicate that have been signed by the attorney for the executor, guardian, etc.  The customary for of notices to creditors used in the community does not identify the attorney for the estate and is signed by the representative of the estate.

 Does the attorney violate any of the Canons of Ethics by causing such notices to be published in this form?

 Opinion

1. (a) The mailing by the attorney of the printed announcement to his regular clients is not a violation of the Canons.  (7-0.)

(b)  Publication of the announcement in a newspaper violates Canon 24. See Opinion 207. (7-0.)

(c)  Mailing of the announcement to a general mailing list including non-clients is a violation unless "warranted by personal relations" with the non-clients.  See Canon 24. (7-0.)

(d)  Addition of office hours and telephone number would only add to the violation in (b) and (c) above.  However, Canon 39 allows a permissible professional card to contain the telephone number, but no mention is made of office hours.  Therefore, four members were of the opinion that the announcement to regular clients could properly show the office hours.  (4-3)

(e)  Whether "title insurance service" refers to a specialized law practice, it would be improper.  Canon 39 permits a professional card to state the "special branches of the profession practiced," but Canon 42 permits notice of specialized legal service to be given only to other lawyers.  Thus it would be improper in an announcement to clients.  See ABA Opinion 251.  Moreover, "special branches" and "specialized legal service" have been interpreted so narrowly as not to include "title insurance service."

See Opinions 2, 10, 15, 62, 98, 112, and 169.

 If "title insurance service" refers to a separate non-legal business, the announcement is improper because it is improper for an attorney to advertise a separate business where the effect is to advertise the lawyer, directly or indirectly, in his professional capacity.  See Opinion 91. (7-0.)

2.  The designation of the building, owned by the attorney and in which he maintains his office, as "law Building" constitutes a minor violation of Canon 24 as an "indirect advertisement for professional employment," and should be avoided.  Such situations are apt to mislead the public and to advertise the building owner in his professional capacity.  (7-0.)

3.  The signing by the attorney of a published notice to creditors of an estate is permitted and contemplated by law (see Rules 2, 7 and 14, TEX. R. CIV. P.), and does not in fact constitute solicitation of professional employment.  Therefore, such procedure is proper and ethical.  See Opinion 75.  See also Drinker, Legal Ethics, p.228, and ABA Opinion 80.  (7-0.)