Obsolete Date: 8/1/2006
A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law. A lawyer shall not state or imply that the lawyer is a specialist in a particular field of law except as follows:
(a) a lawyer admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office may use the designation "patent attorney" or a substantially similar designation;
(b) a lawyer engaged in admiralty practice may use the designation "admiralty," "proctor in admiralty," or a substantially similar designation; or
(c) a lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer has been certified as a specialist in a field of law by a named organization, provided that the communication clearly states the name of the certifying organization and that there is no procedure in this jurisdiction for approving certifying organizations. The communication need not contain such a statement if the named organization has been accredited by the American Bar Association or the lawyer has successfully completed a certification program sponsored by a state bar association.
This Rule permits a lawyer to indicate areas of practice in communications about the lawyer's services. If a lawyer practices only in certain fields, or will not accept matters except in such fields, the lawyer is permitted to so indicate. The lawyer is generally permitted to state that the lawyer is a "specialist," practices a "specialty," or "specializes in" particular fields, but such communications are subject to the "false and misleading" standard applied in Rule 7.1 to communications concerning a lawyer's services.
However, a lawyer may not communicate that the lawyer has been recognized or certified as a specialist in a particular field of law, except as provided by this Rule. Recognition of specialization in patent matters is a matter of long-established policy of the Patent and Trademark Office, as reflected in paragraph (a). Paragraph (b) recognizes that designation of admiralty practice has a long historical tradition associated with maritime commerce and the federal courts.
Certification signifies that an objective entity has recognized an advanced degree of knowledge and experience in the specialty area greater than is suggested by general licensure to practice law. Certifying organizations may be expected to apply standards of experience, knowledge, and proficiency to ensure that a lawyer's recognition as a specialist is meaningful and reliable. In order to ensure that consumers can obtain access to useful information about an organization granting certification, the name of the certifying organization must be included in any communication regarding certification.
Reference: Minutes of Joint Committee on Attorney Standards on 06/08/99, 09/16/99, 11/19/99, 03/23/00, 06/13/00, 09/15/00, 11/17/00, 06/11/02, 09/12/02, 11/15/02, and 06/24/03.