A telephone survey made during the last five months of more than 10 per cent of Maryland lawyers show that nearly half of them favor the freedom to advertise, which is currently prohibited, and that by a two-to-one margin they favor the idea of a prepaid legal services plan similar to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield medical plan. Also, more than half of the 1,037 lawyers polled thought that persons of modest means do not receive the legal assistance they need.
The telephone survey was conducted by law students at the University of Maryland Law School in Baltimore and is believed to be the largest sampling of Maryland attorneys on so many questions at one time, according to a spokesman for the sampling group.
Lawyers were telephoned at random and asked to respond yes, no or abstain to 10 questions. The results of the survey will be published this week by the Maryland Law Forum, a school publication, according to C. William Michaels, and associate editor of the journal.
"During our legal profession class (at the University) we realized we didn't know what the opinion of Maryland lawyers were on certain issues," said Alan Grochal, one of the survey's originators. "We wanted to find out," he said.
The questions were proposed last fall by students in the class, which is taught by Abraham Dash, the brother of Sam Dash, who was counsel to the Senate Committee investigating the Watergate scandal, Grochal said.
A list of 20 questions was cut to 10 and then three dozen students spent nearly five months of spare-time effort in telephoning the lawyers selected at random, he said.
However, James H. Cook, president of the Maryland Bar Association, a voluntary organization which represents 6,700 of the nearly 10,000 lawyers licensed to practice in the state, was doubtful of the survey's significance.
"The questions are so general that most lawyers would just shoot from the hip" in answering them, he said. "The questions are so far-ranging and cover so many disparate subjects that I don't see how anything good could come of them. I don't know what kind of response you can get from a telephone interview," he said.
The students plan on using their information to compare the responses of lawyers in one part of Maryland with responses from lawyers elsewhere in the state, Michaels said. The complete results will not be published for several months, he added.
Whether lawyers can advertise is a current debate within the legal coomunity. In a case now before the Supreme Court, two Phoenix, Ariz, lawyers are appealing a decision censuring them from advertising a limited fee schedule for simple, uncontested divorces, and other matters.
The issues in that case are similar to issues raised in a pending Justice Department suit against the American Bar Association, charging the attorney group with violation of antitrust laws in allegedly prohibiting price competition that would result from full fee advertising.
On Oct. 5, 1976, the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether lawyers have a right under the Constitution and antitrust laws to advertise. The case is still being considered by the Court.