Should there be Limits Imposed on Lawyer Advertising?

The N.J. Supreme Court giveth & taketh away 

Super Lawyer advertising

Would you hire us?

The N.J. Law Journal reports:

A year after the N.J. Supreme Court changed its ethics rules to allow attorneys to advertise inclusion in ratings like Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America, there’s still confusion about how far those ads may go. As a case in point, a lawyer who chose his words poorly has just had his solicitation letter scrapped by the Court’s Committee on Attorney Advertising in its first interpretation of revised Rule of Professional Conduct 7.1(a)(3).

The lawyer’s mistake

Saying he was ‘named as a Super Lawyer’ rather than saying he was on the Super Lawyers list.  Defining his life membership in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum as putting him ‘in an elite group of less than one percent of all lawyers in the United States.’ And stating that these distinctions were due to ‘my dedication to our clients and success in the courtroom.’ This language grossly violates the rules governing attorney advertising.’ The committee said in opinion #41, made public on Monday.

Background of Dispute

The Committee on Attorney Advertising, and the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics received grievances about lawyers touting their selection as “Super Lawyers, ” or “Best Lawyers. ” The Committee issued Opinion #39 concluding:

Advertisements describing attorneys as “Super Lawyers,” “Best
Lawyers in America,” or similar comparative titles, violate the prohibition against
advertisements that are inherently comparative in nature, RPC 7.1(a)(3), or that are likely to create an unjustified expectation about results, RPC 7.1(a)(2).


Here’s a link to the Super Lawyer’s Response to Opinion #39

Subsequently, the N.J. Supreme Court vacated Opinion #39, stating:

We acknowledge that Opinion 39’s shortcomings are the inevitable result of the plain language of RPC 7.1(a)(3)(prohibiting comparative advertising statements) and, to a lesser extent, RPC 7.1(a)(2) (prohibiting advertising “likely to create an unjustified expectation about results”). Indeed, we are persuaded that the standards set forth in the RPCs require review and, at least in respect of RPC 7.1(a)(3), modification both because of the constitutional concerns identified in the Report and in light of the emerging trends in attorney advertising.”

The N.J. Supreme Court issued a Notice to the Bar:

The Supreme Court hereby announces the adoption of the following amendments and an Official Comment to RPC 7.1, effective immediately. In deciding to take this action, the Court considered the reports of the Professional Responsibility Rules Committee, the Committee on Attorney Advertising, and Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics submitted in April 2009, on referral from the decision of the Court in In re Opinion 39 of the Committee on Attorney Advertising, 197 N.J. 66 (2008) (requesting recommendations for amendments to Rules of Professional Conduct regarding comparative communications). The Court also considered written comments submitted pursuant to the Notice dated May 1, 2009, as well as testimony provided at a public hearing held in Trenton on September 30, 2009, which was announced by Notice
dated July 1, 2009.
Mark Neary, Esq.
Clerk of the Supreme Court

Which brings us back to Doe…A dear a female dear.


Ssssh....I'm thinking


So, what do you think? Is it overreaching for lawyers to advertise their selection as “Super Lawyers?” Do these types of designations mislead the public? How about freedom of speech? Do lawyers need a bright line informing them about which  words are permissible to use to describe themselves as “Super Lawyers?” Would issuing a two or three line statement, that can be used by lawyers without fear of violating the RPC’s, of the meaning of a “Super Lawyer” designation, be helpful; or is that death by micromanagement?

We’d love to hear what you think. Please comment.


About Lawrence "Larry" Berezin

I retired from the private practice of law after a 35-year legal career and fight parking tickets for people like you and me. I love sharing valuable information and beating NYC parking tickets for the driving community in NYC

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