You have asked for an opinion on the ethical propriety of a telephone directory advertisement. You wish to place an ad in the Donnelly Directory talking Yellow Pages. You would like to avoid having your actual name in the advertisement, but rather use the name "Attorney Access Line". You wish to have two "tag" lines in the ad, the first saying "Important Questions Deserve Informed Answers," the second saying "A Professional (or possibly Community) Service Brought to You by "A.A.L.Inc." or "A.A.L. Ltd." The center of the ad will indicate five tapes on "General Legal Information," "Personal Injury," "Divorce/Support/Custody," "Criminal/DUI," and "Business Matters/ Real Estate." Directly above the tape listings will be "Free Information and Guidance, Available 24 Hours A Day. Just Dial 574-1200 and enter the Code."
When the number for the tape recordings is called, each caller will be instructed at the end of each recorded message on how to reach your law office. In addition at the bottom of the ad there will be the phone number of your office which will be answered as the "Law offices of the Inquirer."
You have indicated that you are going to register the "Attorney Access Line" as a fictitious name, or possibly incorporate a business called "A.A.L., Limited" or "A.A.L., Inc." and additionally register a fictitious name such as "A.A.L. Inc. d/b/a Attorney Access Line."
Rule of Professional Conduct 7.la provides that:
A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services. A communication is false or misleading if it:
(a) contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading...."
Rule 7.5(a) provides in part that:
(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates Rule 7.1. A trade name may be used by a lawyer in private practice if it does not imply a connection with a government, government agency or with a public or charitable legal services organization and is not otherwise in violation of Rule 7.1....
It is not necessary for you to have your name in the ad. However, the Committee is of the opinion that use of the term "A.A.L.Ltd." or "A.A.L. Inc." incorrectly implies a large corporate structure behind the Attorney Access Line, when in fact it is simply your law office. Use of the term "A.A.L. P.C." is permissible as it indicates a professional corporation (such as a law office) as opposed to a large corporation. The Committee notes that incorporated law firms in Pennsylvania must use the term "P.C." and are not able to use "Inc." or "Ltd."
Use of the term "Community Service" is impermissible as it violates Rule 7.la. The term implies that it is in some way sanctioned or approved by the community or that it is a charitable service, when in fact it is not. In addition when read in an ad that uses only a trade name and not your own name as well, it might also make your trade name violative of Rule 7.5a.
The Committee believes that use of "Professional Service" in the tag line is permissible as you are a professional. In addition, the Committee has no objection to the use of "Important Questions Deserve Informed Answers."
Finally, the Committee cautions you that the information on your tape recordings must be accurate, as any inaccuracies could subject you to liability for malpractice.
- For Members
- For the Public