Opinion #112. Law Firm Advertising as Title Company

Issued by the Professional Ethics Commission

Date Issued: November 1, 1990

Question Presented

Law firm A&B operate a title company, formerly as a separate corporation owned by the firm’s partners, and now under the name of the law firm. A&B wish to list the firm in the yellow pages of the telephone book under “title companies.” It has inquired as to whether such advertising is permitted under the Bar Rules.

Answer

Our review of the Bar Rules does not disclose any prohibition against the proposed practice. Rule 3.9(a) permits advertising as long as it is not false, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive. Rule 3.9(b) defines various types of false advertising, none of which prohibit the proposed advertising. The mere statement in a yellow pages listing that the law firm provides title insurance is a true statement which can be expressed in the yellow pages or in any other form of oral or written communication. While it is conceivable, of course, that the listing might include statements which could be framed to be misleading, we believe that the listing is not per se impermissible under Rule 3.9.

Rule 3.8 prohibits an attorney from holding herself out as an expert, either expressly or implicitly. Again, however, we see nothing in the rule, or any prior interpretation of it, which causes us to conclude that such a listing constitutes a designation of a specialty. While it may be argued that advertising by a law firm under the heading of “title companies” may constitute designation of a specialty, we are not persuaded by such a contention. Moreover, it may be that the providing of title insurance does not even constitute the practice of law, let alone designation of a specialty. Although it is frequently the case that title insurance is provided through insurance agencies operated by or affiliated with law firms, it is possible to be such an agent without being a lawyer. That being the case, we cannot conclude that such a listing would constitute designation of a specialty, any more than would the occasional practice of lawyers acting as real estate broker and so advertising themselves to the public.

We conclude, therefore, that the proposed listing of the law firm is permitted by the Bar Rules.


Enduring Ethics Opinion