7.4 Communication of Field of Practice and Specialization

(a) A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice, concentrate or specialize in particular fields of law.

(b) A lawyer admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office may use the designation “Patent Attorney” or a substantially similar designation.

(c) A lawyer engaged in Admiralty practice may use the designation “Admiralty Attorney,” “Proctor in Admiralty,” or a substantially similar designation.

(d) A lawyer shall not state or imply that a lawyer is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law, unless:

(1) the lawyer has been certified as a specialist by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate state authority or that has been accredited by the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar; and

(2) the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication.


COMMENT

[1] Paragraph (a) of this Rule permits a lawyer to indicate areas of practice in communications about the lawyer’s services. If a lawyer practices only in certain fields, or will not accept matters except in a specified field or fields, the lawyer is permitted to so indicate. A lawyer is generally permitted to state that the lawyer is a “specialist,” practices a “specialty,” or “specializes in” particular fields, but such communications are subject to the “false and misleading” standard applied in Rule 7.1 to communications concerning a lawyer’s services.

[2] Paragraph (b) recognizes the long-established policy of the Patent and Trademark Office for the designation of lawyers practicing before the Office. Paragraph (c) recognizes that designation of Admiralty practice has a long historical tradition associated with maritime commerce and the federal courts.

[3] Paragraph (d) permits a lawyer to state that the lawyer is certified as a specialist in a field of law if such certification is granted by an organization approved by the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar. Certification signifies that an objective entity has recognized an advanced degree of knowledge and experience in the specialty area greater than is suggested by general licensure to practice law. Certifying organizations may be expected to apply standards of experience, knowledge and proficiency to insure that a lawyer’s recognition as a specialist is meaningful and reliable. In order to insure that consumers can obtain access to useful information about an organization granting certification, the name of the certifying organization must be included in any communication regarding the certification.


REPORTER’S NOTES:

Model Rule 7.4 (2002), addressing communication about a lawyer’s concentration or specialty, is substantially in accord with M. Bar R. 3.8. Both rules recognize the positive benefits that flow from a lawyer communicating truthfully to the public about his or her professional expertise. The Task Force, however, recommended that Model Rule 7.4 (2002) be modified to reflect the fact that only the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar is authorized under Maine law to approve a certifying organization, and to include the addition in subsection (a) of the phrase, “concentrate or specialize.” See Maine Bar Rule 4(d)(24).

With those modifications, the Task Force recommended adoption of Rule 7.4.