OPINION 160
September 1957

AIDING THE PRACTICE OF LAW BY PERSONS NOT MEMBERS OF THE STATE BAR--INTERMEDIARIES-- LETTERHEADS—It is improper for an attorney to provide a bank or loan company with his letterhead stationery to be used by them for collection letters when the attorney has little or no contact with the debtor’s situation.

Canon 43. A.B.A. Canon 47.

Question

1. Would it be a violation of the Canons of Ethics, and would it amount to unauthorized practice of law by the loan company or bank, for an attorney on retainer employment with a loan company or bank to leave with the loan company or bank a stack of his letterheads upon which secretaries and officials of the bank or loan company write collection letters and sign the attorney’s name on same and mail them out without the attorney ever having read the letter or having any other contact with the debtor?

2. The same situation, except that the letters would be written by the loan company or bank and be sent to the attorney for his signature when the attorney has given no attention to the file and has no knowledge of the circumstances of the loan but merely signs his name to such letters?

3. The same situation as No. 1, except that the attorney would prepare some letters and leave them with the loan company or bank along with his letterhead and the officials or agents of the bank or loan company select the form they wish to send and type it out and mail it out after after signing the attorney's name.

Opinion

This inquiry is answered on the assumption the facts are as stated. Two of the committee members expressed distaste for this type of inquiry as being "left-handed" and the questions as being hypothetical.

All members of the committee are of the opinion that each of the three situations outlined constitutes a violation of the Canons of Ethics. One member cited in support of his view American Ethics Committee Opinion 68. Two members specified that same constituted a violation of Texas Canon 43 and American Canon 47, and one of such members was of the opinion same also violated Texas Canon 32 and American Canon 35. (9-0)

Four members of the committee agreed with the characterization of such practice as a "prostitution of the professional standing and practice of an attorney," and three members further expressed the view that this was a "production line" method, nonprofessional in character, which tended to degrade the profession, and amounted an attorney selling or renting his name as a lawyer without personally performing the services for which he was retained.

Since the question as to whether or not certain practice constitutes the unauthorized practice of law is not within the purview of this committee, only three members expressed themselves on that question. They all agreed the bank or loan company would be guilty of unauthorized practice in each instance, except one member did not think this would be the case in Situation 2. One member expressed the opinion such attorney's license should be taken away from him for such practice, but another member disagreed with such action, although stating he thought such attorney should be reprimanded most severely.