Opinion 92-21
(December 1992)

You have asked the Committee to render a decision on the ethical propriety of several versions of an ad that you wish to place in foreign speaking newspapers.

Advertising by attorneys is governed by Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct 7.1 through 7.5. Rules 7.1 and 7.4 govern the content of ads. Rule 7.1 provides that ads should be neither fraudulent nor misleading.

An attorney's responsibility regarding the conduct of non-lawyer assistants is governed by Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 5.3.This rule is also implicated in your guidance request. The Committee feels that there is nothing unethical in listing the names of non-lawyer translators, interpreters, or non-lawyer employees in your advertisements. This Committee has approved of this conduct before, and as long as it is made clear that these individuals are not lawyers, they may be listed in your advertisements. However, although your first ad clearly identifies Mr. B as an interpreter, the other ads do not and they should. To not do so is misleading and violative of Rule 7.1. This is compounded in the third ad which refers to Mr. E as "representative," a term which could easily be misconstrued as meaning that Mr. E is a lawyer, and should be removed.

Your fourth ad, listing Mr. F as a former officer of D army, could mislead potential clients who may think after reading the ad, that your office has some sort of special relationship or influence, perhaps in immigration matters or matters in the foreign country, when this is not true. As such, reference to this individual as a former army officer may have to be deleted, unless the relevance of his past position in the context of the ad can be shown. In addition, his status as a non-attorney working for you should be made clear.

Although outside the scope of your inquiry, the Committee cautions you to provide adequate supervision of these individuals when they are meeting with and discussing matters with both actual clients and potential clients. This obligation of proper supervision is mandated by Rule 5.3. Improper supervision could result in both harm to your clients as well as yourself should your interpreters start giving out legal advice on their own. Inadequate supervision could also lead to a charge that you are aiding and abetting the unauthorized practice of law which is in violation of Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5.

   

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.