106 N.J.L.J. 69
July 24, 1980
ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON PROFESSIONAL ETHICS
Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court
OPINION 447 as Amended
Lawyers Use of C.P.A. on Letterhead
The inquirer asks whether it is permissible to put
on the attorney's letterhead after his name the designation C.P.A.
The New Jersey Supreme Court Rule Amendments designated as DR 2-101, et seq. effective April 1, 1979, were enacted to bring us into substantial compliance with the decision in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977). DR 2-102 D) states:
A lawyer who is engaged both in the practice of law and another profession or business shall not so indicate on his letterhead, office sign or professional card, nor shall he identify himself as a lawyer in any publication in connection with his other profession or business.
DR 2-102(E) states:
Nothing contained herein shall prohibit a lawyer from using or permitting the use of, in connection with his name, an earned degree or title derived therefrom indicating his training in the law.
Counsel asks whether, reading the above two sections together, the use of the C.P.A. designation on the attorney's letterhead is in conflict with either of them. Is the designation C.P.A. an earned degree or title derived therefrom, indicative of a lawyer's training in the law, so that our Opinion 23, 87 N.J.L.J. 19 (1964), should be modified? We do not think so.
The Committee further said:
Certain other professions, such as accounting and architecture, also operated under rules of ethics forbidding advertising, solicitation and promotion, and we held that it was proper for a lawyer to engage in such occupations from his law office provided that he met the requirements of DR 2-102(E) (N.Y.). N.Y. State Opinion 206.
The N.Y. Committee concluded that the Bates decision swept away
many of the prohibitions against lawyer advertising and led to material
revisions of the Ethical Considerations and Disciplinary Rates in the Code
of Professional Responsibility, including the repeal of DR 2-102(E) (N.Y.).
With reference to Opinion 494, the Committee reasoned that DR 2-101 (N.Y.) as recently amended provides in part:
A lawyer may use professional cards [and] letterheads provided the same do not violate any statute or court rule, and are in accordance with DR 2-101... While DR 2-101 forbids puffery or self-laudation, it clearly allows a lawyer to state his "education, degrees and other scholastic distinctions" as well as "memberships in bar associations and other professional societies or organizations.
In Wise, Legal Ethics 190 (2d ed. 1970), with
reference to the subject matter of "Attorneys Who Are Accountants," the
text reads as follows:
The Committee on Professional Ethics of the Bar Association of the City of New York and that of the New York County Lawyers have expressed views which are directly contrary to that of American Bar Association Committee, although they dissent with 'all due respect.' They hold that lawyers who are also accountants may practice both professions and may practice them from the same office, with both professions posted on the door. They cannot use a single letterhead or business card showing both professions. They may send announcements to members of the New York Bar that they are practicing both professions. But in a C.P.A. - lawyer partnership all partners must be lawyers.
It is apparent that the New York Opinions 493 and 494 are apparently based on the broad guidelines of Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, supra. No reference is made to any specific language in the Bates case as justifying Opinion 494, and no reference is made to the fact that the term "certified public accountant" is in any sense a legal specialty, or any branch of the law. In fact, it is not a branch of the law; it is a separate and distinct profession.
The fact that the American Bar Association and the
Association of the Bar of the State of New York have seen fit to change
the pertinent provisions of their Code of Professional Responsibility is
noteworthy, but this Committee is bound by the Rules of the New Jersey
Supreme Court. DR 2-102 (D and E) has not been deleted or changed.
We do not think that the Bates decision gives any encouragement for permitting the designation C.P.A. on a lawyer's letterhead. Nor do we think DR 2-102 (D) or (E) is helpful to the inquirer. In fact, it would appear that DR 2-102(D) actually prevents it from being used.
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