How “super” are the ‘Super Lawyers’? How ‘rising’ are the legal stars? And are the “best lawyers” really best?
These are issues that arise as as result of the plethora of awards and lists compiled by the legal media that have prompted a New Jersey committee charged with the responsibility of considering ethical advertising to look at.
Their ruling to lawyers on using such advertising:
“only when the basis for comparison can be verified” and the group bestowing the accolade “has made adequate inquiry into the fitness of the individual lawyer.”
The New Jersey Law Journal (sub. req.) reports that the notice says that honors and awards based on popularity contests based on phone counts, text messages and the like are not bona fide measures of fitness.
“Fitness” is more than simply adding the years in practice and failure to incur some disciplinary wrath, the committee says.
When an award meets this preliminary test, lawyers who want to use are required to provide a description of the award methodology, either in the advertising or by reference to a “convenient, publicly available source.”
When the name of the award includes a superlative such as “super,” “superior,” “best” or “leading,” the advertising “must state only that the lawyer was included in the list with that name, and not suggest that the lawyer has that attribute,” the list says.
Helpfully, the committee gives an example of what sort of message and language should be included when boasting of a “Super Lawyers” reference:
:“Jane Doe was selected to the 2016 Super Lawyers list. The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thomson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found at www.superlawvers.com/about/selection process detail.html. No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.”