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                                         117 N.J.L.J. 259
                                        February 27, 1986


Appointed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey


Use of "J.D." on the Business
Card of a Non-Practicing Lawyer

    The inquirer, who has been admitted to practice law in New Jersey, is currently employed as an Account Executive for a securities firm. The inquirer is not employed as an attorney. As an Account Executive, the inquirer is licensed to sell securities, annuities, and insurance as a commission salesperson. She asks whether she may include the educational designation "J.D." on her business card.
    This issue was raised before the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility in Informal Opinion 993 (1967) where the committee permitted an attorney, who was working as a full-time governmental employee in a non-legal capacity, to use the initials "J.D." after his name on his governmental letterhead. Informal Opinion 1064 (1968), in discussing Informal Opinion 993, recognized that a problem would exist if the activity being done by the person would be considered the practice of law if done by a lawyer, even though it could legally and properly be done by a layman.
    In Formal Opinion 321 (1969), the aforementioned American Bar Association Standing Committee concluded that "degree designations are not appropriate on letterheads, cards, shingles, telephone or other directories" with the following exceptions: (1) "a reputable
law list"; (2) on "personal stationery or cards not showing him as a lawyer or showing his law office address, but simply identifying him and his degree"; (3) by "persons in the academic community or persons who have left the practice of law"; and, (4) in dealing "with lawyers or others in countries where the rules are different and where it is appropriate for a lawyer of that country to utilize his degree designation and be called 'Doctor.'"
    Our Opinion 321, 98 N.J.L.J. 977 (1975) - not to be confused with Opinion 321 cited in the foregoing paragraph - was decided under the superseded Disciplinary Rules of the Code of Professional Responsibility and spoke of the "growing trend toward approving the use of degrees and the title 'Doctor' by lawyers." The question submitted in our Opinion 321 was: "Is it proper for an attorney with a J.D. degree, who is on the faculty at one of the New Jersey State Colleges, to use the title Doctor before his name, solely in connection with his academic position?" Pointing out that we were dealing with a lawyer solely in connection with his position as a faculty member at a college, we rendered an opinion "that the inquirer may ethically use his 'J.D.' degree and the title 'Doctor' limited strictly, however, to his academic position."
    In our Opinion 461, 106 N.J.L.J. 221 (1980) decided after the enactment of DR 2-102(E), we found that "a lawyer is now permitted to use the degree 'J.D.' and the title 'Doctor' in connection with his practice." It was unnecessary to decide whether permission to use the "J.D." designation is restricted to those who are currently

engaged in the practice of law or whether it may also be used by those not engaged in the practice of law, but who have achieved the J.D. degree. No provision similar to DR 2-102(E) appears in the Rules of Professional Conduct.
    RPC 7.2 is the successor to DR 2-102. Although RPC 7.2, on advertising, does not directly deal with the issue presented to us, we discern that it liberalizes the prior rules as to advertising. RPC 7.2 subjects advertising to the requirements of RPC 7.1 Under RPC 7.1(a) we must decide whether the designation "J.D." on the inquirer's business cards would be a "false or misleading communication." This designation would certainly not be false; on the contrary, the inquirer has attained the J.D. degree. We also do not believe that the designation "J.D." would be misleading. As we stated in Opinion 461, supra, the J.D. degree indicates training in the law.
    The inquirer should be permitted to place this educational degree on her business cards.

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