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98 N.J.L.J. 633
July 24, 1975
ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON PROFESSIONAL ETHICS
Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court
Who's Who in New Jersey
This inquiry relates to the propriety of preparing and
submitting to United States Public Relations Service, publishers of
Who's Who in New Jersey biographical data to be included in its
annual publication. The inquirer received the following letter from
Dear Who's Who Nominee:
You have been nominated and selected to appear in
the 1974 edition of Who's Who In New Jersey, which is a
compilation of biographical information on outstanding
citizens of the State of New Jersey. To be considered for
listing in this important publication, nominees must have
distinguished themselves in business, government, or
civic awareness within their own community. We believe
you have so distinguished yourself.
Who's Who In New Jersey has been pre-assigned a
Library of Congress index number and will be filed there.
It will also be filed in the New Jersey archives, and
libraries throughout the state, and is made available to
business and government leaders throughout the nation.
Your biographical information being listed will be an
asset to you for years to come, and will be available to
researchers down through the years.
Many organizations and many leaders throughout the
state have worked with us over a period of months on this
important publication. In order to assure correctness of
your biographical information, please fill out the
enclosed biographical data sheet and return immediately
to our processing center in Atlanta, George, in the
enclosed self addressed envelope. OF COURSE THERE IS NO
COST OR OBLIGATION TO YOU IN ANY MANNER TO BE LISTED.
Again, congratulations on being selected as one of
New Jersey's outstanding citizens for 1974. You will be
one of approximately five thousand people from New Jersey
so honored, to appear in this edition.
The letter was accompanied by a two-page biographical
information form which requested detailed biographical information
with respect to the nominee, including home and business address,
current vocation, family relationships, civic activities,
educational career summary, military duty, outstanding
accomplishments, awards, decorations and citations.
Inquiry has disclosed that a number of New Jersey attorneys
have received this mail.
The inquirer asks: (1) whether his completion of the
biographical form will be regarded as unethical advertising, and
(2) whether or not Who's Who in New Jersey is included in any list
designated as an approved law list.
The answer to the second portion of the inquiry is negative.
Who's Who in New Jersey does not appear on any ABA Approved Law
List. With respect to the propriety of an attorney forwarding
biographical information for publication in Who's Who in New
Jersey, the inquirer is directed to DR 2-101(A):
DR 2-101. Publicity in General
(A) A lawyer shall not prepare, cause to
be prepared, use, or participate in
the use of, any form of public
communication that contains
statements calculated to attract lay
clients; as used herein, "Public
Communication" includes, but is not
limited to, communication by means
of television, radio, motion
picture, newspaper, magazine, or
Wise, Legal Ethics 18 (1966), indicates that a lawyer may
answer an unsolicited inquiry from Who's Who. Reference is made to
Informal Opinions 63 and 64 of the Committee on Professional Ethics
of the American Bar Association. Those opinions state that it is
not improper for a lawyer in good faith to fill out answers to
applications from Who's Who, but not in such a way as to amount to
A similar inquiry was addressed to the Florida Committee on
Professional Ethics. That Committee's Opinion 61-46 (April 20,
1962) is to the effect that a lawyer may allow a biographical
sketch of himself to be published in a volume called World 's Who's
Who in Commerce and Industry, if he did not solicit inclusion and
if he is not required to buy a volume in order to have his
This Committee sees nothing wrong in an attorney of this State
permitting his name to be listed in a biographical reference book,
as long as the listing is done in a suitable manner. Any attorney
who decides to cooperate with such a reference directory must,
however, give careful consideration to the potential problems.
First, the success of the Who's Who publications have spawned
numerous limitations, some of which are of questionable value. Each
attorney, before responding to a solicitation, has a responsibility
to ascertain the reputation of the publication in question, and
whether it will be marketed and distributed in a manner compatible
with the ethical proscriptions against advertising.
A directory which is distributed primarily for reference
purposes is consistent with the Code of Professional
Responsibility, but one which is more aggressively marketed to the
general public may take on the character of a commercial directory,
intended to publicize the services of those listed therein. Any
publication which charges a fee for listing a biography or requires
that the attorney purchase a copy of the publication would
constitute an unethical form of advertising. See our Opinion 290,
97 N.J.L.J. 766 (1974).
Second, any attorney who decides to respond to an inquiry from
a biographical reference publication must be extremely careful
about the content and tone of his response and the biography which
is ultimately published. Care must be taken to avoid
professionally self-laudatory statements calculated to attract
clients, as prohibited by DR 2-101.
Within the limitations above prescribed, it is the opinion of
the Committee that the submission of biographical information for
publication in Who's Who in New Jersey does not violate the above
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