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                                             93 N.J.L.J. 492
                                            July 9, 1970


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


Announcement to Lawyers
Use of Degrees J.D., LL.M. (in Taxation)

Question 1

        Inquiry is made as to whether an announcement of association with a law firm sent to a local bar may state, after the inquirer's name, his degrees, namely: "J.D., LL.M. (in Taxation)" earned at an accredited law school.

    Canons of Professional Ethics, Canon 46, before its most

recent revision, provided:

        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 service, is not improper.

    N.J. Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinion 108, 90 N.J.L.J. 245 (1967), involved a professional announcement sent to fellow attorneys, which included the following language:
        "Specializing in matters involving Federal and State Tax, Corporations and Estates."

The opinion held the announcement improper in that:

            ...Matters involving federal and state taxation, corporations and estates may be particular branches of the law or legal services under the revised ABA Canon 46, but they are not specialized legal services within the meaning of New Jersey Canon 46.

    Canon 46, as revised and in its present form, has since been adopted by the Supreme Court of New Jersey. It refers to "a particular branch of the law or legal service." We are of theopinion "taxation" is a particular branch of the law for this purpose.
    A new Code of Professional Responsibility was adopted by the American Bar Association on August 12, 1969, to become effective for American Bar Association members on January 1, 1970. The Code has not been adopted by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, but we view it as persuasive authority. Section DR 2-102(F) provides as follows:
            Nothing contained herein shall prohibit a lawyer from using or permitting the use, in connection with his name, an earned degree or title derived therefrom indicating his training in the law.

and Section DR 2-105(A) (3) provides as follows:

            A lawyer available to act as a consultant to or as an associate of other lawyers in a particular branch of law or legal service may distribute to other lawyers and publish in legal journals a dignified announcement of such availability, but the announcement shall not contain a representation of special competence or experience. The announcement shall not be distributed to lawyers more frequently than once in a calendar year, but it may be published periodically in legal journals.

    The law school in question is accredited within the meaning of R. 1:24-2 of the N.J. Court Rules, 1969. On the basis of Canons of
Professional Ethics, Canon 46 and the above cited authorities, we advise the inquirer he may include the cited degree language in the announcement he sends to the local bar.

Question 2

        May the announcement referred to in Question 1 be sent to clients of the law firm.

    This part of the inquiry involves Canons of Professional Ethics, Canon 27. It has been uniformly held that the inclusion of the attorney's degree or degrees on a letterhead or a notice is improper. Drinker, Legal Ethics 229 (1953). N.J. Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinions 16, 86 N.J.L.J. 734 (1963), and 23, 87 N.J.L.J. 19 (1964).
    A.B.A. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Informal Opinion 896 (1965) states:
            All that may appear on your letterhead as a lawyer is an indication that you are a lawyer, your address, and your telephone number. It may not show your academic degrees (Informal Opinions 712, 445, 121, 116)... .

    A.B.A. Standing Committee on Professional Ethics, Informal Opinion 1101 (1967) held an attorney with a J.D. degree may not use either verbally or in print the title of "doctor" professionally or socially. However, the new Code of Professional Responsibility DR 2-102(F), set forth above, might indicate that the American Bar Association has clarified this issue in favor of permitting the exhibition of earned degrees or titles to other attorneys and to the public. This section was interpreted in A.B.A. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Informal Opinion 1131 (1970), which was concerned with the use of a letterhead or professional card bearing the degree of "LL.M. (in Taxation)" earned at the law school here involved.

    The opinion cited DR 2-105(A) (4) which provides as follows:
            A lawyer who is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law or law practice by the authority having jurisdiction under the state law over the subject of specialization by lawyers may hold himself out as such specialist but only in accordance with the rules prescribed by that authority.

    Attention was directed to EC 2-9 to 2-16, and particularly to EC 2-14, of the new Code of Professional Responsibility which latter section provides as follows:
            In some instances a lawyer confines his practice to a particular field of law. In the absence of state controls to insure the existence of special competence, a lawyer should not be permitted to hold himself out as a specialist or as having special training or ability, other than in the historically excepted fields of admiralty, trademark, and patent law.

    The opinion then held that although an earned degree under the new Code could be used after the attorney's name, it did not permit the attorney to hold himself out as a specialist in the field of taxation. It was held that only the degree "LL.M." could be used, and that the words "(in Taxation)" must be deleted.
    As pointed out above, prior opinions have uniformly prohibited the use of degrees on letterheads or notices coming to the attention of the public. The Code, which has not been adopted by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, has, nevertheless, been interpreted as not changing this rule as to the words "(in Taxation)." On the basis of present authority, the inquirer is advised he may not show any portion of his earned degrees on any document coming to the attention of persons not lawyers.

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