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Changes in Specialty Certification Disclosure in Advertising

On April 29, 2003, the Tennessee Supreme Court filed an order amending Rule 7.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct ( RPC ) which eliminated the prior requirement for a lawyer to state whether the lawyer was certified as a specialist within areas of law listed in the lawyer's advertisements, or whether certification was available within listed areas of law. This amendment became effective on June 1, 2003 and changes the disclosure requirements of the past 10 years which were based on DR 2- 101(C) of the prior Code of Professional Responsibility.

However, RPC 7.4(b) does not allow a lawyer to communicate that the lawyer is a “specialist”, practices a “specialty”, specializes in a particular field or that the lawyer has been recognized or certified as a specialist in a particular field of law except that the lawyer may state that he or she has been certified as a specialist by the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization, or that the lawyer is certified as a specialist in that field of law by an organization recognized or accredited by the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization, in accordance with RPC 7.4(d).

The Supreme Court also concluded in RPC 7.4(c) that recognition of specialization in patent matters is a matter of long-standing policy of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and that lawyers who are admitted to practice before the USPTO may use the designation “patent attorney” or a substantially similar designation.


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Ethics Opinion Spotlight - By Laura Chastain
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