FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
February 8, 1977
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
A bar association lawyer referral committee may distribute in local hospitals and other
appropriate public locations a brochure describing the association’s lawyer referral service.
27, Canons of Professional Ethics [See current 4-7.17(b); 4-7.22; Chapter 8]
Canon 2; EC 2-1; EC 2-15 [See current 4-7.22; Chapter 8]; DR 2-103(1)(3) [See
current 4-7.17(b); 4-7.22; Chapter 8]
64-32, ABA Formal 121, 179, 205, 227 and ABA Informal 846
Jacksonville Bar Association v. Wilson, 102 So.2d 292 (1958)
Integration Rule: Art. XIV; Bylaws Art. XV
Vice Chairman Lehan stated the opinion of the committee:
A bar association lawyer referral committee has inquired whether it may, in order to
make referral services more widely known to the public, distribute in local hospitals a brochure
describing the lawyer referral service operated by the bar association.
This Committee answers the inquiry in the affirmative and would also add that
dissemination of the brochure to the general public at appropriate locations in addition to
hospitals would be appropriate.
Approved lawyer referral services are specifically authorized as provided in Article XIV
of the Integration Rule and in Article XV of the By-Laws under the Integration Rule, and by DR
2-103(1)(3) [See current Rules 4-7.17(b); 4-7.22; Chapter 8]. EC 2-15 encourages the use of such
services and lawyers’ support thereof [See current Rules 4-7.22; Chapter 8]. EC 2-1 specifically
recognizes an important function of the legal profession as including “to educate laymen to
recognize their legal problems, to facilitate the process of intelligent selection of lawyers, and to
assist in making legal services fully available.”
ABA Formal Opinion 227, issued under the former Canons of Professional Ethics, is in
point. That opinion finds that former Canon 27, as it applies to bar associations, does not prohibit
the employment of advertising facilities by an organized Bar association to acquaint the lay
public with the desirability of securing legal services promptly when a legal problem arises and
to apprise the public of a lawyer’s reference service, the plan under which it operates, and the
availability of the service.
Likewise, Canon 2 of the Code of Professional Responsibility does not prohibit such
employment by bar associations of such advertising facilities.
This Committee adopts general guidelines laid out in Formal Opinion 227 as to
advertising of a lawyer referral service, to-wit:
First, it should be carried on by the organized bar in order that any semblance of
personal solicitation will be avoided.
Second, that the purpose is to give the layman beneficial information, to enable
lawyers as a whole to render a better professional service, to promote order in
society, to prevent controversy and litigation and to enhance the public esteem of
the legal profession, the judicial process and the judicial establishments, should be
Third, it must in fact be motivated by a desire to benefit the lay public and carried
out in such a way as to avoid the impression that it is actuated by selfish desire to
increase professional employment; and any plan, however well intended, that on
trial fails to convince the lay public that the purpose is to benefit the layman and
not to promote professional employment should be promptly abandoned.
Fourth, it should be carried on in a manner in keeping with the dignity and
traditions of the profession.
See also, ABA Formal Opinions 205, 121 and 179, and ABA Informal Opinion 846. In
addition, see this Committee’s Opinion 64-32 relating to distribution of “Have You Made A
In Jacksonville Bar Association v. Wilson, 102 So.2d 292 (1958), the Florida Supreme
Court specifically approved the use of advertising by a local bar association to promote public
awareness of a lawyer’s referral service.
With the inquiry there is enclosed copy of a pamphlet used by a local bar association in
another state to publicize the services available through its lawyer referral service. The inquiry is
not clear as to whether it requests specific approval by this Committee of the literal wording of
that pamphlet. Suffice it to say for present purposes that any such brochure must not be
inconsistent with the foregoing guidelines. If a particular question should be raised as to whether
a particular portion of any such brochure is within those guidelines or is otherwise in accord with
the CPR, this Committee would then consider undertaking a response in that respect.