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R. M. J.

decided: January 25, 1982.

IN RE R. M. J.


Powell, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Author: Powell

[ 455 U.S. Page 193]

 JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Court's decision in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977), required a re-examination of long-held perceptions as to "advertising" by lawyers. This appeal presents the question whether certain aspects of the revised ethical rules of the Supreme Court of Missouri regulating lawyer advertising conform to the requirements of Bates.


As with many of the States, until the decision in Bates, Missouri placed an absolute prohibition on advertising by lawyers.*fn1 After the Court's invalidation of just such a prohibition in Bates, the Committee on Professional Ethics and Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Missouri revised that court's Rule 4 regulating lawyer advertising. The Committee sought to "strike a midpoint between prohibition and unlimited advertising,"*fn2 and the revised regulation of advertising, adopted with slight modification by the State Supreme Court, represents a compromise. Lawyer advertising is permitted, but it is restricted to certain categories of information, and in some instances, to certain specified language.

[ 455 U.S. Page 194]

     Thus, part B of DR 2-101 of the Rule states that a lawyer may "publish . . . in newspapers, periodicals and the yellow pages of telephone directories" 10 categories of information: name, address and telephone number; areas of practice; date and place of birth; schools attended; foreign language ability; office hours; fee for an initial consultation; availability of a schedule of fees; credit arrangements; and the fixed fee to be charged for certain specified "routine" legal services.*fn3 Although the Rule does not state explicitly that these 10 categories of information or the 3 indicated forms of printed advertisement are the only information and the only means of advertising that will be permitted,*fn4 that is the interpretation given the Rule by the State Supreme Court and the Advisory Committee*fn5 charged with its enforcement.

In addition to these guidelines, and under authority of the Rule, the Advisory Committee has issued an addendum to the Rule providing that if the lawyer chooses to list areas of

[ 455 U.S. Page 195]

     practice in his advertisement, he must do so in one of two prescribed ways. He may list one of three general descriptive terms specified in the Rule -- "General Civil Practice," "General Criminal Practice," or "General Civil and Criminal Practice." Alternatively, he may use one or more of a list of 23 areas of practice, including, for example, "Tort Law," "Family Law," and "Probate and Trust Law." He may not list both a general term and specific subheadings, nor may he deviate from the precise wording stated in the Rule. He may not indicate that his practice is "limited" to the listed areas and he must include a particular disclaimer of certification of expertise following any listing of specific areas of practice.*fn6

[ 455 U.S. Page 196]

     Finally, one further aspect of the Rule is relevant in this case. DR 2-102 of Rule 4 regulates the use of professional announcement cards. It permits a lawyer or firm to mail a dignified "brief professional announcement card stating new or changed associates or addresses, change of firm name, or similar matters." The Rule, however, does not permit a general mailing; the announcement cards may be sent only to "lawyers, clients, former clients, personal friends, and relatives."*fn7 Mo. Rev. Stat., Sup. Ct. Rule 4, DR 2-102(A)(2) (1978) (Index Vol.).


Appellant graduated from law school in 1973 and was admitted to the Missouri and Illinois Bars in the same year. After a short stint with the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C., appellant moved to St. Louis, Mo., in April 1977, and began practice as a sole practitioner. As a means of announcing the opening of his office, he mailed professional announcement cards to a selected list of addressees. In order to reach a wider audience, he placed several advertisements in local newspapers and in the yellow pages of the local telephone directory.

The advertisements at issue in this litigation appeared in January, February, and August 1978, and included information

[ 455 U.S. Page 197]

     that was not expressly permitted by Rule 4. They included the information that appellant was licensed in Missouri and Illinois. They contained, in large capital letters, a statement that appellant was "Admitted to Practice Before THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT." And they included a listing of areas of practice that deviated from the language prescribed by the Advisory Committee -- e. g., "personal injury" and "real estate" instead of "tort law" and "property law" -- and that included several areas of law without analogue in the list of areas prepared by the Advisory Committee -- e. g., "contract," "zoning & land use," "communication," "pension & profit sharing plans."*fn8 See n. 6, supra. In addition, and ...

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