OPINION 418
October 1984

Questions Presented

  1. May a lawyer place in a public advertisement his degrees earned, the area of study of each degree, the school attended and the date of graduation?
  2. May a lawyer list certifications by nationally recognized boards in non- legal areas in a public advertisement, and if this is permissible, what is the proper way for the attorney to express this in the advertisement so as not to be misleading?
  3. In stating the area of law in which the attorney practices as described in DR 2-101(B), may the lawyer provide typical kinds of cases covered by each general category which will be illustrative of the broad heading? i.e., "Workers' Compensation--Silicosis, Lead Poisoning, and other Occupational Diseases" or "Real Property Law such as Deeds Prepared, Abstracting and Contracts for the Sale of Real Property."

Discussion

None of the Disciplinary Rules of the Texas Code of Professional Responsibility explicitly prohibit publication of information relating to non- legal degrees earned. EC 2-10 does address advertising and allows one to state universities, colleges and law schools attended, with the date of graduation and degree thereafter; areas of study are not included. However, no prior opinions prohibit areas of study from being included, and there would be no valid reason to exclude this information since it would not be misleading and may be helpful to one selecting an attorney.

Similarly, nothing in the Code of Professional Responsibility would indicate that the lawyer is prohibited from listing certifications by nationally recognized boards in non-legal areas. The Committee perceives no valid reason for prohibiting this publication. However, to avoid misleading the public and holding one's self out as a specialist in areas of law related to the non-legal certification, the information should be stated in plain factual terms without description or elaboration thereof. Memberships in non-legal academic or professional associations or societies should be listed by official name of the organization only. And non-legal certifications should be stated without comment.

A lawyer may not hold himself out as a specialist except as permitted under DR's 2-104 and 2-101(C). DR 2-104 deals with patent and trademark attorneys, and is inapplicable to a description like, "Workers' Compensation—Silicosis, Lead Poisoning and other Occupational Diseases." DR 2-101(C) permits description of a practice, but requires an accompanying statement with regard to each area. If the attorney advertises an area of law in which he has a Texas Board of Legal Specialization Certificate of Special Competence, he must state: "Board Certified, (specific area of specialization)—Texas Board of Legal Specialization." If he is not Board certified, he must state, "Not Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization." If the Board has not recognized the area of expertise, and the area is not encompassed within the scope of one of the recognized areas, the lawyer must print the latter statement, 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 hypothetical description listed above, although not a recognized area of specialization, comes within the recognized field of Personal Injury Trial Law. In such a situation, the Committee recommends the following guidelines. If the lawyer is Board certified in the subsuming area, he must so state, but should also insert the caveat, "Workers' Compensation (or whatever the subarea) is included in Personal Injury Trial law. However, no designation has been made in Workers' Compensation law as such." If the lawyer is not Board certified in the recognized subsuming area, he must state that he is, "Not certified in Personal Injury Trial law, which would include Workers' Compensation."

Conclusion

The Committee is of the opinion that all of the information inquired about is permissible. However, in order to avoid misleading the public, legal subspecialties and non-legal certifications should be advertised only according to the guidelines set forth herein.