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Rules of Professional Conduct

Supreme Judicial Court Rules Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.4: Communication of fields of practice

Effective Date: 07/01/2015
Updates: Adopted March 26, 2015, effective July 1, 2015

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(a)

A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of the law. 

(b)

Lawyers may hold themselves out publicly as specialists in particular services, fields, and areas of law if the communication is not false or misleading. Such holding out includes a statement that the lawyer concentrates in, specializes in, is certified in, has expertise in, or limits practice to a particular service, field, or area of law. Lawyers who hold themselves out as specialists shall be held to the standard of performance of specialists in that particular service, field, or area. 

(c)

A lawyer shall not state or imply that a lawyer is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law unless the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication and: 

(1) the lawyer has been certified as a specialist by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate state authority or accredited by the American Bar Association, or 

(2) the communication states that the certifying organization is “a private organization, whose standards for certification are not regulated by a state authority or the American Bar Association.” 

Comment

[1] Paragraphs (a) and (b) of this Rule permit a lawyer to indicate areas of practice in communications about the lawyer’s services. Lawyers are generally permitted to hold themselves out as specialists in a particular service, field or area of law but the definition of what is included in the term “holding out” is broad and the examples in paragraph (b) are not intended to be exclusive. Any such claims of specialization are subject to the “false and misleading” standard applied in Rule 7.1 to communications concerning a lawyer’s services. 

[2] Paragraph (c) identifies the circumstances under which lawyers may state that they are certified as specialists in a field or area of law. Certification signifies that an objective entity has recognized an advanced degree of knowledge and experience in the specialty area greater than is suggested by general licensure to practice law. Certifying organizations may be expected to apply standards of experience, knowledge and proficiency to insure that a lawyer’s recognition as a specialist is meaningful and reliable. In order to insure that consumers can obtain access to useful information about an organization granting certification, the name of the certifying organization must be included in any communication regarding the certification.

Downloads for Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.4: Communication of fields of practice

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Updates: Adopted March 26, 2015, effective July 1, 2015
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