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                                         95 N.J.L.J. 185
                                        March 2, 1972


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


Attorney's Letterhead for
Charitable Solicitation

    An attorney inquires whether he would be in violation of New Jersey Disciplinary Rule 2-101, Publicity in General, if he were to mail over his letterhead, a letter to all attorneys in the southwest New Jersey area requesting them, when counseling clients concerning their estates, to consider the needs of a well known national charity. Attached to the letter would be suggested bequest forms.
    Disciplinary Rule 2-101(B) states that "a lawyer shall not publicize himself, his partner or associate as a lawyer through newspapers or magazine advertisements, radio or television announcements, display advertisements in city or telephone directories or other means of commercial publicity." The traditional ban against advertising by lawyers, is rooted in the public interest. Former Canons of Professional Ethics, Canon 27 held it unprofessional "to solicit professional employment by circulars, advertisements or by personal communications or interviews not warranted by personal relations." Thus, the use of a law firm's letterhead for a circular letter by a member of the firm to his church congregation was held improper. The A.B.A. Comm. on Professional Ethics, stated in Informal Decision C-494 (1961):

            A lawyer may not use his letterhead for the purpose of writing circular letters. Use of a lawyer's letterhead should be confined to business connected with his legal practice and with those with whom he has sustained business relations in connection with his law practice.

    The evil which Canon 27 sought to prohibit was direct as well as indirect advertising for professional employment as a lawyer. Here, although the charitable solicitation ascends beyond the area "warranted by personal relations," it is limited to other attorneys in the general area, and is not likely to produce professional employment as a lawyer.
    The promotion of such institutional, charitable and community purposes by attorneys is within the public interest and it is not improper for practicing attorneys to solicit funds for various causes and serve on committees for such purposes, provided that they do not use their letterhead for circulars beyond the area warranted by personal or professional relations.

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