Has a judge said something complimentary about you as a lawyer? Shhh, don’t tell anyone. And certainly don’t publish the comments on your website. At least not in New Jersey. As reported at Law.com:
A New Jersey attorney is suing a Supreme Court panel over a ban on attorneys’ ads that quote judges’ favorable comments about them, claiming it violates the First and Fourteenth amendments.
Unless of course you include the entire text of the opinion. Pursuant to New Jersey Attorney Advertising Guideline 3:
An attorney of law firm may not include, on a website or other advertisement, a quotation or excerpt from a court opinion (oral or written) about the attorney’s abilities or legal services. An attorney my, however, present the full text of opinions, including those that discuss the attorney’s legal abilities, on a website or other advertisement.
Ah, no problem, I would guess that most opinions would easily fit on a roadside billboard, at 12pt. font.
And of course, there’s good rationale for this rule:
such quotations or excerpts, when taken out of the context of the judicial opinion and used by an attorney for the purpose of soliciting clients, are prohibited judicial endorsements or testimonials. As such, these quotations or excerpts from a judicial opinion in attorney advertising are inherently misleading in violation of RPC 7.1(a).
Right, because people need the entire opinion to understand what the judge really meant.
I know, I know, the public needs protection from us clever and highly-persuasive lawyers.
But to me, the irony is that rules like these actually lead to the public’s inability to distinguish one lawyer from another.
Should someone hire a lawyer because three judges paid him a compliment? No.
Is quoting a judge’s bona fide honest opinion about how a lawyer performed his services relevant to whether the lawyer is competent? Gosh, I would think so.
Don’t publish prior results that you’ve obtained for clients. Don’t publish real compliments made by clients and colleagues.
And if you publish anything that could possible be interpreted as an advertisement, you better plaster it with disclaimers.
But go ahead and publish as many of those “professional badges” for which all you did was pay.
These definitely help protect the public from being misled… Let’s make every lawyer look exactly the same.