90 N.J.L.J. 245
April 20, 1967
Specialized Legal Services
An attorney proposes to place the following advertisement in
the New Jersey Law Journal:
Tax Lien Foreclosures. In Rem or Personal. Attorney will handle for other attorneys.
Solicitation by advertisement is prohibited by Canons of Professional Ethics, Canon 27, and the only exception to this general rule is found in Canon 46. That ABA canon formerly read:
Where a lawyer is engaged in rendering a specialized legal service directly and only to other lawyers, a brief, dignified notice of that fact, couched in language indicating that it is addressed to lawyers, inserted in legal periodicals and like publications when it will afford convenient and beneficial information to lawyers desiring to obtain such services is not improper.
In February 1956, ABA Canon 46 was amended to read:
A lawyer available to act as an associate
of other lawyers in a particular branch of the
law or legal service may send to local lawyers
only and publish in his local legal journal a
brief and dignified announcement of his
availability to serve other lawyers in
connection therewith. The announcement should
be in a form which does not constitute a
statement or representation of special
experience or expertness.
professional cards, sets forth a clearer test:
Any class of work which the average
lawyer is equipped and willing to handle
cannot be said to be a specialty despite the
fact that a lawyer may restrict himself to
such a class of work and acquire an unusual
degree of proficiency and experience in
handling the same. Any specification of
particular types of work necessarily carries
an inference that unusual ability or
experience is asserted and consequently
noticed or advertised.
In Drinker, Legal Ethics 295 (1961), the author reports heretofore unreported ABA decisions pertaining to Canon 46 construing the following not to be specialized legal services: Law and practice of New Jersey, jury trials, arguing cases in the Supreme Court, consultant on Florida law, bankruptcy and insolvency law and business reorganizations, income tax matters, federal taxation and trusts and estates.
In the light of the general principles cited above and the particular branches of the law which have been construed not to be specialized legal services by the ABA Ethics Committee, it is our opinion that tax lien foreclosure work is not a specialized legal service within the meaning of N.J. Canon 46 and, therefore, that the proposed advertisement is improper.
As a point of interest, the New York County Lawyers Ass'n., Committee on Professional Ethics has construed the original ABA Canon 46 more broadly than has the ABA Committee (see N.Y. County Opinion 451 and 451A (1956)), but this Committee adheres to the principle that N.J. Canon 46 is to be strictly construed. See ABA Opinions 145 (1935), 194 (1939).