The New Jersey Supreme Court’s Committee on Attorney Advertising has relaxed the rules on descriptive terms that lawyers can use in their advertisements, though lawyers may be required to back up their claims.
Phrases that previously had been barred—such as “specialist,” “specialized,” “specializing” or “expertise,” can now be used—according to CAA Opinion 45, which was released on Nov. 8.
Lawyers still may not use the phrases “expert” or “certified” unless they have been certified by the court by an accredited committee of the American Bar Association, the report says.
The CAA was asked to review the matter after one firm complained that another law firm described itself as having an “expertise” in tax law. The CAA noted that the principal lawyer in that firm had an LL.M. in tax law, had been a lawyer for the Internal Revenue Service and had 30 years of experience in tax law.
“After revisiting the issue in light of recent out-of-state First Amendment decisions in advertising, the committee has now determined that lawyers may use the terms ‘expertise,’ ‘specialize,’ and ‘specialist’ in advertising provided that the terms are accurate and the lawyers can demonstrate the necessary education, training and experience to substantiate the claim,” the committee said.
Florham Park solo Sheryl Gorski, the chairwoman of the committee, said the committee tried to come up with a series of accommodations that were appropriate.
“We’re very concerned when attorneys use comparative language,” Gorski said.
However, she said, other states have started to adopted less-restrictive language due to First Amendment challenges.
Any lawyer who uses any of those now-acceptable phrases in their advertisements, and who faces a challenge, will be required to demonstrate that he or she has the requisite education, training or on-the-job experience to substantiate the claims.
“In sum, the committee finds that accurate self-described specialization or expertise, without more, is not necessarily misleading and, if true, may be included in attorney advertising,” the committee said.
“Lawyers have the burden of demonstrating the necessary education, training and experience to substantiate such claims,” the committee said.
The committee’s move comes a decade after the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a prohibition on attorneys advertising their selections in Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America and other comparative ratings guides.