The Florida Bar
A lawyer's announcements and advertisements may indicate that his practice is limited to a particular area of law, may list professional positions formerly held by the lawyer, and may mention a nonlegal postgraduate degree.
(April 15, 1988)
(April 15, 1988)
RPC: 4-7.1, 4-7.5
The inquiring attorney has requested an opinion on information that may be included in announcements and advertising in general. Specifically, he asks the following:
1. Are the phrases "practice limited to," "limited to the practice of," "practice concentrating in" and "concentrating in the practice of" permissible?
2. May he include directly under his name the nonattorney position he held immediately prior to joining his current firm (i.e.,"Formerly Chief Executive Officer of X Hospital")?
3. May he include a former legal or law-related position (i.e., Senior Attorney-Health and Rehabilitative Services")?
4. May he include a non-legal post-graduate degree, specifically "Masters in Health Administration (M.H.A.)"?
1. Rule 4-7.5, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, permits an attorney to communicate that he does or does not practice in particular fields of law. The only prohibition is against stating or implying that the attorney is a "specialist," with certain limited exceptions (i.e., "patent attorney," "proctor in admiralty," "Florida Bar Certified" or "Florida Bar Designated"). [Rule 4-7.14(a)(4) and subsequent court opinions indicate that only board certified lawyers may use the term "certification" or "certified." Lawyers and law firms may use terms such as "specialist" or "expert" or their variations only if the lawyer can objectively verify those claims. Designations are no longer recognized. See In re: Amendments to Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, 677 So.2d 272 (Fla. 1996).]
Therefore, all of the phrases proposed by the attorney are permissible.
2./3./4. Rule 4-7.1 prohibits an attorney from making or permitting to be made a false or misleading communication about the attorney or the attorney's services. A communication is deemed to be false or misleading if it (1) contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading, (2) is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the attorney can achieve or (3) compares the attorney's services with those of other attorneys, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated.
As long as the information contained in the announcement or advertising is not false or misleading, as defined above, it is permissible. Such information includes prior positions held by the attorney (both legal and non-legal), any degrees or licenses the attorney holds, earned titles, years of experience, membership in organizations (e.g., ABA), other states or courts where admitted to practice and law school or undergraduate affiliations. In the situation presented, therefore, the attorney may state that he was the former chief executive of the hospital, that he was formerly a senior attorney with Health and Rehabilitative Services and that he holds an M.H.A.