May 15, 1972
Ethics Opinon 1972-8
SUBJECT: EDUCATION DEGREES IN ANNOUNCEMENTS
May degrees be included in announcements?
If the announcements were to go to other lawyers only, it would seem proper to include degrees in the announcements. If the announcements are to go to laymen as well, however, it would be a violation of Canon No. 27 which prohibits advertising.
Los Angeles County Bar Association Opinion No. 157 provides that an attorney may, with propriety, circulate among attorneys only an announcement of his return to private practice calling to their attention that he is in a position to render them specialized legal services.
Los Angeles County Bar Opinion No. 180 provides that an attorney specializing in a particular branch of the law not generally engaged in by the ordinary practitioner may, with ethical propriety, mail to the profession a brief, dignified notice to apprise the profession of such specialized service.
Los Angeles County Bar Opinion No. 247 states:
"It is proper upon formation of a partnership or a new association to circulate to clients and members of the Bar, by personal delivery or through the mail, cards announcing in a dignified manner such fact, and if desired, the line or lines specialized in by such partnership or association."
American Bar Association Opinion No. C-445 (5/61) in discussing whether it is proper to show the references "LL.B" or "CPA" on a letterhead, stated that since the amendment of Canon 27 of the Canons of Professional Ethics:
". . . this Committee has consistently held that it is improper for a lawyer to show anything of this sort on his letterhead (except in the case of admiralty lawyers and patent and trademark lawyers, as permitted by the amendment to this canon in 1951).
"In Informal Opinion No. C-409 we held it was improper for a lawyer to refer to honorary degrees received by him; in C-410 we held it was improper for him to show 'tax counsel' on letterhead; in C-365 we held it was improper for him to show on his letter that he was a registered engineer; and in C-331 we held it was improper for a lawyer to designate himself as 'Accountant' or 'Tax Counsultant'.
". . . in Opinion No. 183 we held it was improper for a lawyer to use a letterhead showing that he was both an attorney at law and a doctor of medicine, or that he had both the degrees of LL.B and M.D. or to use the phrase 'Medical Jurisprudence'.
"Accordingly, you are advised it is improper for you to show on your letterhead either of the designations above referred to."
Also see American Bar Association Informal Decision No. C712 (11/19/63) and Informal Opinion No. 1001 (10/16/67).
This opinion is advisory only. It is not binding upon the State Bar, the Board of Governors, its agents or employees.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The State Bar of California has issued proposed changes of the Rules of Professional Conduct involving advertising. If the amendments are adopted by the Supreme Court, the conclusion of this opinion might be superseded.
Disclaimer: This opinion was issued by the Legal Ethics Committee of the San Diego County Bar Association. It is advisory only and is not binding upon any member of the SDCBA, any other member of the State Bar of California, the State Bar of California or its Board of Governors, or any persons or tribunals charged with regulatory responsibilities. The SDCBA, its officers, directors, agents, and the Legal Ethics Committee members assume no responsibility or liability in rendering this opinion.