IN THE MATTER OF ) ) CASE NO. 45S00-0301-DI-13 ANONYMOUS )
IN THE MATTER OF )
) CASE NO. 45S00-0301-DI-14
To be recognized as certified in a field of law in the State
of Indiana, the lawyer must be duly admitted to the bar of this
state, in active status, and in good standing, throughout the period for which
the certification is granted.
The lawyer must be certified by an [independent certifying organization] approved by [the Commission for Continuing Legal Education], and must be in full compliance with the Indiana Bar Certification Review Plan, the rules and policies of the ICO and the rules and policies of CLE.
Section 6. Privileges Conferred and Limitations Imposed.
A lawyer who is certified under this rule may communicate the fact that
the lawyer is certified by the ICO as a specialist in the area
of law involved. The lawyer shall not represent, either expressly or impliedly,
that the lawyers certification has been individually recognized by the Indiana Supreme Court
or CLE, or by an entity other than the ICO.
The respondents were not certified as Elder Law Specialists pursuant to Admis.Disc.R. 30.
Because the respondents advertised themselves as specialists when in fact they had
not been so certified, we find that they violated Ind.Professional Conduct Rule 7.1(b)
by using or participating in the use of a form of public communication
containing a false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, self-laudatory or unfair statement or claim.
Within the non-exclusive list of such statements or claims is any statement or
implication that a lawyer is certified or recognized as a specialist other than
as permitted by Rule 7.4. Prof.Cond.R. 7.1(c)(3). Rule 7.4 provides, in
relevant part, that a lawyer may communicate that the lawyer is certified as
a specialist in a field of practice when the certification and communication are
authorized under Admis.Disc.R. 30. Prof.Cond.R. 7.4(b). A lawyer is not
prohibited from communicating the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice
in particular fields of law, but may not express or imply any particular
expertise except as otherwise provided in Prof.Cond.R. 7.4(b). Prof.Cond.R. 7.4(a). The
purpose of this formalized system of specialist recognition is stated in Admis.Disc.R. 30:
(a) [To] enhance public access to and promote efficient and economic delivery of appropriate legal services;
(b) assure that lawyers claiming special competence in a field of law have satisfied uniform criteria appropriate to the field;
(c) facilitate the education, training and certification of lawyers in limited fields of law;
(d) facilitate lawyer access to certifying organizations;
(e) expedite consultation and referral; and
(f) encourage lawyer self-regulation and organizational diversity in defining and implementing certification of lawyers in limited fields of law.
In support of their assertion that a private reprimand is an appropriate sanction
for the misconduct here, the respondents and the Commission note that the advertisement
appeared in a publication with an extremely limited audience and that the ad
generated no legal work for the respondents. Further, after learning of the
grievance generated by their ad, the respondents promptly discontinued its use, leading us
to conclude that their violation of Prof.Cond.R. 7.1 here was not intentional.
We also note that this Court has imposed a private reprimand for
almost identical misconduct.
See, e.g., Matter of Anonymous, 689 N.E.2d 434 (Ind.
1997) (lawyer advertised on radio that he was a personal injury specialist; violation
of the rule found to be unintentional.); Cf. Matter of Wilkinson, 770 N.E.2d
825 (Ind. 2002) (public reprimand imposed pursuant to agreed resolution for lawyer who
advertised in yellow pages as Bankruptcy & Debt Specialist). In light of
these considerations, we conclude that the respondents should be privately reprimanded.
Costs of these proceedings are assessed against the respondents.