NYSBA Ethics Opinion 06

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Professional Ethics Committee Opinion

Opinion #6 – 01/29/1965 (6-64)

Topic: Advertising. Announcement of Specialty
Digest: Lawyer may send dignified announcement of his specialization to other lawyers so long as it does not constitute a statement or representation of special experience or expertness
Canons: Former Canons, 27, 46

QUESTION

The attached letter is proposed to be circulated among members of a local Bar Association. The Ethics Committee of the local Bar Association requests an opinion as to whether the proposed letter violates Canon 27 or whether the proposed letter complies with the exception provided in Canon 46 of the Canons of Professional Ethics.

OPINION

Canon 27, which prohibits advertising directly or indirectly, seemingly includes the advertising of a specialty as well. While the Amendment thereto permits proctors in admiralty, patent attorneys and trademark attorneys to indicate their specialty on a letterhead or shingle, workmen’s compensation law is not a recognized specialty.Canon 27 must be read, however, in conjunction with Canon 46 which, as amended on February 21, 1956, states as follows:
“A lawyer available to act as an associate of other lawyers in a particular branch of the law or legal service may send to local lawyers only and publish in his local legal journal, a brief and dignified announcement of his availability to serve other lawyers in connection therewith. The announcement should be ln a form which does not constitute a statement or representation of special experience or expertness.”Prior to the Amendment of 1956, the American Bar Association insisted upon strict construction of Canon 46, but the Amendment permitted announcements by lawyers to other lawyers of special branches of law by mailed notices and in law journals.
(See Drinker – Legal Ethics, pp. 233-238 and pp. 242-245 for discussion of this matter.)
The New York City and County Committees have long permitted and approved the announcement of special branches by man to lawyers and have not restricted such announcements to branches which “constitute a specialized legal service.” Among other branches held to be specialized are workmen’s compensation claims. The rulings of the New York Committee provide a precedent tor a dignified announcement that a lawyer’s engaged in rendering a specialized legal service to other lawyers.It is our opinion that the attached letter, in its present form, is undignified and constitutes a statement or representation of specialized experience or expertness and is, therefore, objectionable. We suggest that paragraph fifth of the proposed letter be modified to read as follows:”Former president of the New York Workmen’s Compensation Bar Association.”

PROPOSED LETTER

Dear Colleague:
In connection with the recent announcement of my continuation of practice of the Workmen’ a Compensation Law at the above address, I would like to direct your attention to the following facts pertinent to my background and experience:Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Law of the State of New York from 1932 to 1939, handling matters involving all aspects of the Workmen’s Compensation Law, including appeals to the Appellate Division and Court of Appeals.Compensation Referee from 1939 to 1943.Since 1943, representing compensation claimants before referees throughout New York State, appearances before the Workmen’s Compensation Board, and the appellate courts.
Organizer and former president of the New York Workmen’s Compensation Bar Association (which this year played a major role in the official celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the enactment of the Workmen’ a Compensation Law).I am in a position to appear for compensation claimants at hearings before the referees and the Workmen’s Compensation Board, including the preparation and arguments of applications for review, and also all proceedings and arguments before the Appellate Division and Court of Appeals, and thus, provide a needed specialized legal assistance to lawyers representing compensation claimants in X County,
Yours Very truly,
X

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