NJ Supreme Court Lifts Ban On SUPER LAWYER, BEST LAWYER Advertising

Ending months of anticipation, New Jersey’s highest court has struck down Opinion 39, a prohibition on attorneys advertising their selections in Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review and other comparative ratings guides. The Court, in a unanimous ruling on December 17, 2008, agreed with a Special Master who found in a report issued last June that “bans on truthful, fact-based claims in lawful advertising could be ruled unconstitutional when the state fails to establish that the regulated claims are actually or inherently misleading.” The Court ordered three of its committees to fashion a replacement for Rule of Professional Conduct 7.1, which presently forbids comparative advertising.

The Court found the Special Master’s report to be very persuasive. In that report, the Special Master lauded selection process used by Key Professional Media, Inc., the company that selects the lawyers to be included in the Super Lawyers list, stating,

Suffice to say, the selection procedures employed by Key Professional Media, Inc. are very sophisticated, comprehensive and complex.

The Special Master also noted that Super Lawyers “is a comprehensive, good-faith and detailed attempt to produce a list of lawyers that have attained high peer recognition, meet ethical standards, and have demonstrated some degree of achievement in their field.”

Similarly, the Special Master noted with favor the Super Lawyers system of checks and balances, its database and system safeguards and the various steps Super Lawyers takes in assessing the qualifications and good standing of the lawyers selected for the list of Super Lawyers.

Donald Vanarelli, owner of this weblog, was selected as a New Jersey Super Lawyer in 2007 and 2008. He was recently selected again as a Super Lawyer in 2009. In addition, Mr. Vanarelli has received an “AV” rating from the Martindale-Hubbell rating system, an independent service which has rated attorneys nationwide for more than a century. An “AV” rating is the Highest Rating for Legal Ability and Ethical Standards, meaning that the lawyer is recognized by his peers as having achieved very high to preeminent legal ability and very high ethical conduct relevant to the discharge of professional responsibilities.