The New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Attorney Advertising previously prohibited lawyers licensed in New Jersey from stating that they are “experts,” have “expertise,” are “specialists,” or “specialize” in an area of law unless they are certified by the Supreme Court or an organization approved by the American Bar Association. Use of these terms by lawyers who are not certified was considered to be misleading, in violation of New Jersey Rules of Professional Conduct, governing attorney conduct.

Now, in Opinion 45, published on November 8, 2018, the Committee determined that lawyers may use the terms “expertise,” “specialize,” and “specialist” in advertising provided the terms are accurate. Lawyers bear the burden of demonstrating the necessary education, training, and experience to substantiate such claims. However, the Committee retained the restriction on the use of the term “expert” to lawyers who are certified by the Supreme Court or an organization approved by the American Bar Association.

Opinion 45 by the Committee on Attorney Advertising is attached here –

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Soon after the Supreme Court published Opinion 45, the New Jersey Law Journal published an editorial asking the Court to clarify the difference between a New Jersey attorney claiming to have “expertise” in a subject matter area of the law, which is permitted under the new rule, as opposed to claiming to be an “expert” in the area, which is not permitted. The editorial is reproduced below: 

Further Guidance Needed on ‘Expertise’ vs. ‘Expert’ in Lawyer Ads

On the exact difference between claiming “expertise” and claiming to be an “expert,” the committee is silent. A clarification would be helpful.
By Law Journal Editorial Board | November 19, 2018 at 11:00 AM

Lawyers were not allowed to advertise in New Jersey before the United States Supreme Court found First Amendment protection for some attorney advertising in 1977. Thereafter, the Rules of Professional Ethics were amended to permit specified advertising, RPC 7.2, as explained in an entire chapter in Kevin Michaels’ treatise on New Jersey Attorney Ethics (Chapter 11, pages 201-232) and a Supreme Court Committee on Attorney Advertising was established to provide guidance and decide grievances. R. 1:19A.

In its most recent decision, the committee withdrew its previous prohibition on lawyers advertising that they “specialize” or have “expertise” in a field of law, subject to demonstration that the advertising lawyer has the necessary education, training and experience to substantiate the claim. Opinion 45 (Nov. 8, 2018). Nevertheless, while attorneys may claim “expertise,” they may not “call themselves ‘experts’” unless they are certified by the Supreme Court or by an organization approved by the American Bar Association.

As to the exact difference between claiming “expertise” and claiming to be an “expert,” the committee is silent. A clarification would be helpful.

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