Questions Presented1. May a lawyer state in a public advertisement that he was formerly a military attorney while in the armed forces?
2. Would such an advertisement be considered to be a claim of specialization in an area of law and thus require a disclaimer?
Descriptions of job titles previously held are not expressly prohibited by any of the Disciplinary Rules of the Texas Code of Professional Responsibility. EC 2-10 allows certain information to be published in advertising by an attorney, and does not list former job titles as one of the permissible topics; however, EC 2-10 is not an exclusive list. See State Bar of Texas Professional Ethics Committee Op. 418 (1984). No prior opinions prohibit publishing such information. Just as Opinion 418 allowed areas of non-legal study to be included, the inclusion of this type of information would not be misleading and may be helpful to one selecting an attorney.
The question of whether a disclaimer is required hinges on whether allowing the above-mentioned job titles constitutes a claim of specialization in an area of law. The undeniable impression that both a civilian or a member of the military would receive from the advertising of these job titles is that the attorney has expertise in the area of law involving military personnel, regardless of whether this is a bona fide "area of law." Since this is not an area recognized by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, DR 2-101(C)(2) provides that the advertisement must state "Not Certified by the Texas Board of Specialization" and may additionally state "No designation has been made by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization for a Certificate of Special Competence in this area." The statement recommended by the attorney who has presented the question to the Committee does not include the mandatory statement noted above, and is thus insufficient. It is also not technically in conformity with the latter disclaimer above.
The military job titles related to legal experience may be included in advertising.
Job titles implying expertise within an area of law must include proper disclaimers under a strict construction of these rules. (9-0)