Attorney advertising that mentions awards, honors, and accolades such as “Super Lawyers,” “Best Lawyers,” “Superior Attorney,” numerical ratings, and the like has apparently prompted the filing of many complaints with the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Attorney Advertising. As a result, the Committee recently issued a notice to the State Bar Association reminding New Jersey attorneys of the ethics rules governing advertisements mentioning the receipt of awards, honors, or accolades.

As a preliminary matter, an attorney who seeks to advertise the receipt of an award, honor, or accolade must ascertain whether the organization conferring the award has made “inquiry into the attorney’s fitness.” Rule of Professional Conduct (RPC) 7.1. “The rating or certifying methodology must have included inquiry into the lawyer’s qualifications and considered those qualifications in selecting the lawyer for inclusion.”

When an award, honor, or accolade meets the preliminary test, the lawyer must include the following additional information in any advertisement: first, the lawyer must provide “a description of the standard or methodology on which the award, honor, or accolade is based … .” Official Comment to RPC 7 .1. Second, the lawyer must include the name of the comparing organization that issued the award. RPC 7.1 (a)(3)(i). Third, the lawyer must include this disclaimer: ‘No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.”‘ RPC 7.l(a)(3)(iii). Fourth, when the name of an award, honor, or accolade contains a superlative, such as “super,” “best,” “superior,” “leading,” “top-rated,” or the like, the advertising must state only that the lawyer was included in the list with that name, and not suggest that the lawyer has that attribute.

All of this additional, accompanying language must be presented on the face of the advertising, readily discernible and in proximity to the reference to the award. The accompanying information cannot be buried at the bottom of a page, or in tiny print, or placed outside the screen shot on a website.

The Notice is attached here – Notice to the Bar regarding Attorney Advertising in NJ

The Law Office of Donald D. Vanarelli website: https://vanarellilaw.com/