NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATIONProfessional
Ethics Committee Opinion
Opinion #66 - 01/08/1968
Topic: Writing for Lay Publication
Digest: Lawyer may author articles of general legal information so
long as he does not answer specific questions and does not appear to
Canon: Former Canons 27, 35, 40
A lawyer who is the counsel to a trade association has been requested
to submit articles discussing matters of law pertaining to the industry
for inclusion in the association's monthly bulletin. This bulletin
is distributed, without charge, to the members of the association and
others interested in the industry who are on the association's mailing
list. The articles would appear over the lawyer’s name. He
asks whether there would be any ethical objection.
It is the committee's opinion that the proposed practice would not be
improper provided that the articles contain only general information and
do not attempt to answer specific questions submitted by members of the
association seeking legal advice relating to their own affairs.
Identification of the lawyer should be limited to the fact that he
is a lawyer and a member of the Bar and counsel to the association.
Canon 40, provides in part: "A lawyer may with propriety write
articles for publications in which he gives information upon the law."
An attorney so doing does not violate the provisions of Canon 35 which
state that the relations between a lawyer and those to whom he gives
legal advice should be direct and personal and that this service must
not be exploited by an intervening lay agency. Also, the practice
would not violate Canon 27 which prohibits solicitation or advertising
if the articles are of a general nature. See Opinion No. 92 of the
American Bar Association.
Opinion No. 804 of The Association of the Bar of the City of New
York, dated May 2, 1955, approved the publication and dissemination of a
statement prepared by a lawyer who was counsel to a trade association
concerning the import and effect of a court decision of interest to the
industry and the members of the association. The committee stated,
however, that care should be exercised to avoid having the statement
contain anything that could be interpreted either as giving advice to
members of the association in respect to their individual affairs or as
Informal Decision No. 538 of the American Bar Association holds that
it is not improper for the legal advisor of a fraternal organization to
contribute articles of a general nature on practical questions of law to
the organization's publication.