Sunday, October 14, 2018
A staff report from the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court
The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct has issued an advisory opinion concerning the advertisement by lawyers of their juris doctor degrees and other earned academic degrees and professional licenses.
Advisory Opinion 2018-06 replaces a 1994 opinion that addressed the ability of lawyers to advertise their juris doctor (J.D.) degrees while working in other professions or business and communicate the holding of other degrees and licenses while engaged in the practice of law.
The board concludes that the J.D. degree represents formal training in the law and may be displayed by a lawyer in another business or profession even when the lawyer does not actively practice law. The board advises however, that an appropriate disclaimer be added to the display of the J.D. degree in order to not mislead business clients that the lawyer does not provide legal advice or services. The display of other academic degrees or professional licenses is permitted, the board concludes, as long as the information is not false, misleading, or non-verifiable.
The board cautions lawyers that the display of other degrees and licenses should be done in a manner to avoid an implication that the lawyer specializes in an area of law. Specialization in an area of the law requires certification by organizations approved by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Finally, the board concludes that the display of the J.D. in a law-related business such as real estate consulting, title agency, or accounting requires the lawyer to pay close attention to a professional conduct rule dictating the requirements for lawyers to reiterate in writing to business clients that they are not providing legal services that carry the ordinary protections of conflicts of interest checks, attorney-client confidentially, and professional independence found in the practice of law.