Ethics Committee Formal Opinion #1992‑93/11
Certification as a Specialist/Problems with Seminars
June 9, 1993
Rule 7.4(c) as currently written prohibits an attorney from stating that an attorney is a specialist or has other certifications not yet recognized by the NH Supreme Court. (Rule 7.4(c)).
An attorney has a limited right under the First Amendment to advertise certifications by a meritorious program, such as the National Board of Trial Advocacy. (Peel v. Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, 496 US 91 (1990)).
An attorney may advertise a seminar or lecture in a newspaper or by direct mailing to non‑clients not known to need legal service of the kind advertised, provided the attorney complies with requirements of Rule 7.2 & 7.3. (Rule 7.2; Rule 7.3(c))
An attorney participating in publicly advertised seminars or lectures, should be cautious in answering specific questions posed by those attending, so as not create a “client” relationship, nor engage in prohibited solicitation. (Rule 7.3)
The attorney participating in a seminar or public lecture should be careful to caution that advice and answers have only general applications and may not solve individual problems that are fact‑specific, and otherwise not intentionally mislead participants as to what they can expect of the lawyer in the future.
There is no longer any prohibition from representing as a client, a participant in a seminar in which the attorney participated.
- In advertising which is otherwise acceptable, may an attorney publicize the attorney’s certification by the American Bankruptcy Board of Certification (ABBC). Does it make any difference if the attorney avoids describing the attorney as a “specialist”?
- May an attorney solicit, through a newspaper of general circulation, attendance of the general public at a seminar in consumer bankruptcy to be offered by the attorney? Does it make any difference if the solicitation is made by direct mail (to non‑clients), rather than through a newspaper of general circulation?
- May the attorney answer questions posed by participants, where the answer constitutes individual counseling? Does it make any difference if a fee is charged?
- May the attorney represent seminar participants who subsequently decide to file bankruptcy?