127 N.J.L.J. 753
March 21, 1991
in a Field of Practice
This inquiry originated as a grievance filed by this Committee
against an attorney who had caused an advertisement to be published
in a newspaper of general circulation. The grievance alleged that
the advertisement violated RPC 7.4 in that it stated that the
attorney specialized in malpractice cases when medical malpractice
law has not been designated by our Supreme Court as an area of
specialty certification. In lieu of formal action, the Committee
sent the attorney a letter requesting that he cease and desist from
making use of this or any future advertisement communicating such
specialization. The attorney agreed, and coupled his assent with
an inquiry concerning the propriety of using the following
1. "My practice is concentrated in the field of malpractice" and/or
2. "Malpractice work involves particular expertise."
The information conveyed by a statement communicating
concentration in a field of practice readily identifies for
consumers an attorney who has a familiarity with, is seeking, and
willing to handle, a particular type of matter. See Opinion 4, 122
N.J.L.J. 746 (1988). This is consistent with the requirement that
attorney advertising be "predominantly informational." RPC 7.2(a).
Since the attorney has advised us that the "focus of my practice is
on malpractice cases," we hold that he may communicate
concentration in that field of practice.
However, the statement that "malpractice work involves particular expertise" implies that this attorney possesses expertise that other attorneys do not, and could be interpreted as a claim of superior legal ability. RPC 7.1(a)(3) prohibits an attorney from making any communication that "compares the lawyer's service with other lawyers' services." Therefore, we hold that an attorney may not, directly or indirectly, communicate expertise in a field of practice unless the attorney has been certified as a specialist in such field.