"Super Lawyers" May Count as Attorney Advertising on Your LinkedIn Profile

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In a world that loves awards and accolades, be careful how you use them. In May 2016, the New Jersey Supreme Court's Committee on Attorney Advertising put out a Notice to the Bar on "attorney advertising of awards, honors, and accolades that compare a lawyer's services to other lawyers' services." The committee specifically referred to '"Super Lawyers," "Rising Stars," Best Lawyers," "Superior Attorney," "LeadingLawyer," "Top-RatedCounsel," numerical ratings, and the like' and reminded attorney that can refer to those accolades "only when the basis for the comparison can be verified and the organization has made adequate inquiry into the fitness of the individual lawyer." Even then, "Rule of Professional Conduct 7.1 requires that additional language be displayed to provide explanation and context." The committee puts the burden on individual attorneys to determine whether the methodology for the accolade they've received meets the standard. The award methodology must include an inquiry into the attorney's fitness and qualifications, and the basis for comparison with other attorneys "must be substantiated, bona fide, and verifiable."

The committee stated certain awards do not meet this threshold inquiry, and therefore cannot be advertised, for example:

  • Popularity contests, in which the lawyer wins through votes via email, telephone, or text.
  • Awards issued for direct payment or as indirect payment like a reward for joining an organization.
  • Awards based on the lawyer's participation or activity on the organization's website by, for example, endorsing other attorneys or responding to questions from the public about legal matters.

If a lawyer's award does meet this preliminary test, then that lawyer must include information about the award when referring to it. That information should include:

  • Description of the award's methodology or reference to the methodology.
  • Name of the organization issuing the award.
  • The statement: "No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey."

The committee gave an example, using the Super Lawyers award:

Jane Doe was selected to the 2016 Super Lawyers list. The Super Lawyers list isissuedbyThomsonReuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found at www.superlawyers.com/about/selection_process_detail.html. No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

While the notice doesn't specifically reference the use of awards on LinkedIn, it's a reminder to always check your state's rules to be sure your LinkedIn profile, website, and other materials are in compliance. If Super Lawyers or other awards are listed on your LinkedIn profile or law firm's website, you may want to take a few minutes today to update your description.

Read the entire notice from the New Jersey Supreme Court's Committee on Attorney Advertising.