You have asked the Committee to render an opinion on the following situation: You have written a comprehensive book on a certain area of the law, X, which you would like to distribute to those interested, either as a gift or for sale. You would like to call the book "New Form of X area Brief." You also note in your inquiry that you consider the work done by you in this endeavor is "quasi pro bono" and that as such, some leeway should be given as regards any ethical restrictions which may apply to you. You indicate that you do not consider writing the book as the practice of law, but you do want to make sure that your conduct complies with any ethical responsibilities you have under the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct.
The Committee is of the opinion that since you are writing this book as an attorney, that it might be considered practicing law, particularly if individuals are going to rely on it in making decisions that may affect their legal rights and liabilities. Furthermore, the pro bono nature of any legal activity by an attorney in no way abridges any of the ethical responsibilities that an attorney may have under the Rules.
The Committee agrees that Rules 7.4 and 8.4c of the Rules of Professional Conduct should be considered by you. Rule 7.4 addresses the communication of the field in which you practice. Recently, the Rule has been significantly changed to allow an attorney to refer to him or herself as "certified" or a "specialist," provided certain requirements are met. A copy of the new rule and its comments are enclosed for your information, but from your inquiry it would appear that calling yourself an "X area of the law" attorney would be permissible as it does not appear that you are trying to claim you are a "specialist." It is important to note however, that if you are distributing your book with your card noting that you are a lawyer that you should be on active status with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
The Committee feels it appropriate to caution you that the information given in your book should be accurate and up-to-date when published. (See Rule 1.1).
- For Members
- For the Public