State Bar Ethics Opinions cite the applicable California Rules of Professional Conduct in effect at the time of the writing of the opinion. Please refer to the California Rules of Professional Conduct Cross Reference Chart for a table indicating the corresponding current operative rule. There, you can also link to the text of the current rule.
May an attorney ethically participate in a series of radio programs in which he is to discuss topics related to law and talk with members of the listening audience by telephone?
Rule 2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar.1
The opinion of this Committee is sought as to whether it is ethical for an attorney to participate in a series of radio programs under conditions furnished by the attorney requesting the opinion which read:
"A California attorney is practicing in a small town and wishes to make appearances on a local radio station in the town in which he is practicing. The radio announcer will introduce him as a local attorney and a friend, and give his name.
The attorney wishes to discuss on the radio pressing issues of our time, such as capital punishment, libel of public figures, marijuana, etc. The radio audience will in turn be permitted to call up the radio station and talk with the attorney. In no event will any such caller or the audience in general be advised upon personal legal problems, other than the general admonishment to consult their own personal attorney."
The Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of California provide, in part:
"Rule 2. Section a. A member of the State Bar shall not solicit professional employment by advertisement or otherwise.
Without limiting the generality of the foregoing a member of the State Bar shall not solicit professional employment by
"(1) Volunteering counsel or advice except where ties of blood relationship or trust make it appropriate.
"(2) Using a newspaper, magazine, radio, television, books, circulars, pamphlets, or any medium of communication, to advertise the name of the lawyer or his law firm or the fact that he is a member of the State Bar or the Bar of any jurisdiction; nothing herein shall be deemed to prevent the publication in a customary and appropriate manner of articles, books, treatises or other writing."
"Rule 18. A member of the State Bar shall not advise inquirers or render opinions to them through or in connection with a newspaper, radio or other publicity medium of any kind in respect to their specific legal problems, whether or not such attorney shall be compensated for his services."
Rule 2 explicitly prohibits solicitation by the use of radio to advertise the name of the lawyer or his law firm or the fact that he is a member of the State Bar. It is the opinion of this Committee that the attorney's participation in the described series of broadcasts in the town in which he practices will result in solicitation by advertising. It is our view that he should decline to participate. Similar views have been expressed by the Los Angeles County Bar Association Committee on Legal Ethics in informal opinion No. 1964-7 and Opinions Nos. 145 (1943), 186 (1951) and 299 (1966). (Also see Drinker, Legal Ethics (1953) at page 264 and Wise, Legal Ethics (1970) at page 31.)
This opinion is issued by the Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct of The State Bar of California. It is advisory only. It is not binding upon the courts, The State Bar of California, its Board of Governors, any persons or tribunals charged with regulatory responsibilities, or any member of the State Bar.
1 [PUBLISHER'S NOTE: A complete revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct was approved by the Supreme Court effective January l, 1975. (See (1975) 14 Cal.3d Rules 1 and "Cross Reference of Present Rules of Professional Conduct to Former Rules of Professional Conduct," in Part III. D.)]