NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATIONCommittee on
Opinion #452 - 12/10/1976
Topic: Bar association sponsored consumer legal directories
Digest: Bar associations may publish consumer legal directories for
Code: DR 2-102; 2-102(A) (6)
May a state, county or local bar association publish a "consumer law
directory" intended for wide public distribution to non-lawyers?
DR 2-102(A)(6) permits lawyers and law firms to use a "dignified ..
listing in a reputable law list or legal directory giving brief
biographical and other informative data" only when (a) the list or
directory and (b) the information contained therein, both satisfy all
requirements of DR
Subdivision (A)(6) further provides:
"A law list or directory is not reputable if its management or
contents are likely to be misleading or injurious to the public or to
the profession. A law list is conclusively established to be reputable
if it is certified by the American Bar Association as being in
compliance with its rules and standards. The published data may include
only the following: name, including name of law firm and names of
professional associates; addresses and telephone numbers; one or more
fields of law in which the lawyer or law firm concentrates; a statement
that practice is limited to one or more fields of law; a statement that
the lawyer or law firm specializes in a particular field of law or law
practice but only if authorized under DR 2-105(A)(4); date and place of
birth; date and place of admission to the bar of state and federal
courts; schools attended, with dates of graduation, degrees, and other
scholastic distinctions; public or quasi public offices; military
service, posts of honor; legal authorships; legal teaching positions;
memberships, offices, committee assignments, and section memberships in
bar associations; memberships and offices in legal fraternities and
legal societies; technical and professional licenses; memberships in
scientific, technical and professional associations and societies;
foreign language ability; names and addresses of references, and with
their consent, names of clients regularly represented."
On February 17, 1976, the American Bar Association amended DR
2-102(A(6) to provide for listings in “a reputable law list [or]
legal directory, a directory published by a state, county or local bar
association, or the classified section of telephone company directories
giving brief biographical and other informative data”. These
and other American Bar Association amendments to DR 2-102(A) have not
been adopted in New York.
ABA Inf. 1312 (1975), interpreting DR 2-102(A)(6) as originally
adopted, recognized that a law list for purposes of this DR included
"[e]very list of attorneys at law, legal directory or other
instrumentality maintained or published primarily for the purpose of
circulating or presenting the name of any attorney .. as probably
available for professional employment" (emphasis in ABA Inf. 1312).
A “legal directory" for purposes of this DR was defined as a
directory which, inter alia, was "intended primarily for circulation to
lawyers", but which was "not maintained or published for the purpose of
presenting lawyers' names as being probably available for professional
employment". The Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory was thus defined as a
"law list" and not a "legal directory".
ABA Inf. 1312 further held that DR 2-102(A)(6) made no distinction
between the information which could be included in a law list or legal
directory, but noted that publication was proper only if the law list or
directory was "reputable". The test to determine whether a law list or
directory is reputable is that specification set forth in DR
2-102(A)(6), to wit: whether "its management or contents are likely to
be misleading or injurious to the public or the profession".
ABA Inf. 1363 (1976), issued after the adoption of ABA amendments to
DR 2-102(A)(6), explained:
"The law list or legal directory must be reputable, but there is no
restriction as to who may publish or distribute a reputable law list or
legal directory. This is unchanged by the 1976 amendment.
"To the extent that a 'directory published by a state, county or
local bar association' constitutes a legal directory or law list as
defined above, the amendment emphasizes one class of organizations that
may publish them. Other organizations of lawyers or non-lawyers in
like manner may also publish law lists or legal directories."
Although the Code in New York does not contain the specific language
referring to "a state, county or local bar association", we hold that
such associations are in no way forbidden from publishing a law list
intended for wide public distribution, as long as the list conforms to
the standards of DR 2-102(A)(6). To the extent that the information
contained in the list or directory is specifically authorized by DR
2-102(A)(6) and is not misleading, its publication and distribution to
"consumers" or members of the public would be proper.