State Bar of Arizona Ethics Opinions
87-04: Communications; Lawyer's Services; Fields of Practice
Law firm's mere factual statement of new associate's background does not imply ability to achieve legal results.
The inquiring law firm proposes to circulate an announcement of the association of a new associate attorney, and wishes the announcement to reflect that the new attorney was formerly a clinical nurse research investigator in the School of Medicine at the University of Washington. The inquiring law firm primarily engages in personal injury and other litigation practice. A copy of the proposed announcement is appended as Exhibit A.
The inquiring law firm wishes to know whether the inclusion of the new associate’s non-legal background in nursing in the announcement is ethically permissible.
ETHICAL RULES INVOLVED
ER 7.1. Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services
ER 7.4. Communication of Fields of Practice
ER 7.4 provides that a lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication is considered misleading if it is likely to create an unjustified expectation about the results the lawyer can achieve. In this case, the mere factual statement of the new associate’s prior background does not imply the ability to achieve legal results, but merely connotes substantive medical background which might otherwise not be known to another attorney. We do not find such a statement materially false or misleading.
ER 7.4 places restrictions upon the types of communications which can be made concerning an attorney’s area of expertise. A lawyer is restricted in designating areas in which the lawyer is a specialist. As written, the announcement does not imply that the new associate is a specialist in any particular area.
Based upon the relevant Ethical Rules, we are of the opinion that the proposed announcement of association involves no ethical impropriety.
(Name of Law Firm)
is pleased to announce to members
of the Bar that
(Name of New Associate)
(formerly a Clinical Nurse Research Investigator
in the School of Medicine, University of Washington)
has been admitted to the State Bar of Arizona
and has become an Associate with the firm.
The firm continues to emphasize its practice
and its willingness to associate with other counsel
Formal opinions of the Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct are advisory in nature only and are not binding in any disciplinary or other legal proceeding. This opinion is based on the Ethical Rules in effect on the date the opinion was published. If the rules change, a different conclusion may be appropriate.
© State Bar of Arizona 1987