FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
February 8, 1962
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
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; and (3)
The lawyer’s aiding of unauthorized law practice. The presence or absence of compensation
herein is immaterial.
27, 35, 40, 47 [See current 4-1.1, 4-1.4, 4-7.11, and 4-5.5]
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 [no current equivalent], 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
The transgressions of ethical principles primarily to be guarded against are:
(1) improper advertisement of the lawyer (Canon 27) [See current Rule 4-7.11]
(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) [See current Rules 4-1.1 and 4-1.4]
(3) the lay publisher, sponsor, or broadcaster to give legal advice, constituting the
unauthorized practice of law (Canon 47) [See current Rule 4-5.5]
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.