Skip Navigation

 
The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org
PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OF THE FLORIDA BAR

OPINION 61-40
February 8, 1962

A lawyer may with propriety write articles for publication in which he gives information upon the law. The transgressions of ethical principles primarily to be guarded against are:

1. The improper advertisement of the lawyer.

2. The giving of legal advice to persons with whom he has not the personal contact and background necessary to make his advice reliable.

3. The lawyer's aiding of unauthorized law practice.

The presence or absence of compensation herein is immaterial.

Canons: 27, 35, 40, 47
Opinions: ABA 42, 92, 98, 121, 141, 162, 166, 168 and 273

Chairman Holcomb stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar asks whether it would be proper for him to write a series of articles on general topics of the law to be published in a “throw away” newspaper published in his vicinity, which has a postal mailing service and is published twice a month.

Drinker, Legal Ethics, on page 263 states:

Canon 40, adopted in 1928, provides:

“A lawyer may with propriety write articles for publications in which he gives information upon the law; but he should not accept employment from such publications to advise inquirers in respect to their individual rights.”

. . .

The application of Canon 40 to borderline cases always involves the question of good faith on the part of the lawyer and of the publisher or sponsor of the article or address.

The transgressions of ethical principles primarily to be guarded against are:

(1) improper advertisement of the lawyer (Canon 27)

(2) giving by him of legal advice to persons with whom he has not the personal contact and background required between lawyer and client to make his advice reliable (Canon 35)
(3) the lay publisher, sponsor, or broadcaster to give legal advice, constituting the unauthorized practice of law (Canon 47)

. . .

Whether or not the lawyer is paid for articles is not decisive.

ABA Opinion 92 states that writing and selling for publication articles of a general nature on legal subjects is not per se improper. ABA Opinion 270 states that a lawyer may not answer, even anonymously, inquiries for advice as to individual rights through the medium of a newspaper column. See also ABA Opinions 92, 121, 141, 162, 273, 42, 166 and 168.

It would appear that so long as he does not answer questions of a specific nature or attempt to advise individuals as to their specific rights, he would not be violating the Canons of Professional Ethics in writing such articles.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]