Opinion 87-28
(November 1987)

Your recent draft of a proposed billboard advertisement which was forwarded to Paul Kazaras by your advertising agency on November 10, 1987, was presented to the Professional Guidance Committee at its meeting on November 16, 1987.

All advertising in Pennsylvania is currently governed by DR2-l0l(A) which provides:

No lawyer shall engage in, utilize or allow any form of advertising that is knowingly false, fraudulent or misleading.

DR9-l0l8 provides:

A lawyer shall not state or imply that he is able to influence improperly or upon irrelevant grounds any tribunal, legislative body, or public official.

The Model Rules of Professional Conduct, as adopted in Pennsylvania on October 16, 1987, will govern all ethical issues that arise after April 1, 1988. Model Rule 7.1(b) provides:

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:

(b) is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the rules of professional conduct or other law....

Model Rule 8.4(e) provides:

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

(e) state or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official....

It was the Committee's opinion that your proposed advertisement violates both the above-mentioned Disciplinary Rules and Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

Your advertisement shows a sketch of "Lady Justice" with tipped scales and a slogan which says "Tip the scales in your favor!" This slogan implies that by hiring you, your client is guaranteed a favorable result. This is clearly not the case and as such the slogan makes the advertisement misleading and violative of DR2-101(A) and Model Rule 7.1(b).

However, because clients hire attorneys to go into court and deal with government agencies and officials, including but not limited to, court officials and judges, the slogan further implies impermissible and unsubstantiated influence with the court system and those who work in it. As such, it violates DR9-l0l8 and Model Rule 8.4(e).

Unfortunately, at this time in Philadelphia, corruption is prominent in the media and has had a strong impact on the court system. The slogan serves to perpetuate the negative views that many members of the public have about our legal system.

It is important to emphasize that the Committee's objections to the advertisement centered around the slogan. The Committee had no objection to the use of a billboard advertisement, nor did they find anything else in it impermissible.

For your general information, I refer you to the Pennsylvania Bar Association Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility opinion on advertising, 85-170.

   

The Philadelphia Bar Association's Professional Guidance Committee provides, upon request, advice for lawyers facing or anticipating facing ethical dilemmas. Advice is based on the consideration of the facts of the particular inquirer's situation and the Rules of Professional Conduct as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Committee's opinions are advisory only and are based upon the facts set forth. The opinions are not binding upon the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. They carry only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.