Editor's Note: See M. R. P. C 7.1, 7.2, 7.4, 7.5, 8.4.
ADVERTISING - It is not improper for an attorney licensed to practice another profession, but not actively engaged in that profession, to include a designation of his other professional licensure on his letterhead, business cards and in advertisements for his law practice.
The Ethics Committee of the Mississippi State Bar has been requested to address the following question:
Would the inclusion of the words "Registered Professional Engineer" in the letterhead, business card, advertisement, etc. be proper if done by a sole practitioner who is engaged solely in the practice of law, is a Registered Professional Engineer licensed to practice engineering in the State of Mississippi, intends to become a Patent Attorney, and intends to concentrate his practice in engineering-related or technically oriented areas of the law?
Disciplinary Rule 2-101[A] prohibits any form of public communication that is "false, deceptive, or misleading." The Disciplinary rules do not specify every permissible or impermissible practice. DR 2-101[C] lists eleven practices declared to be deceptive or misleading. One practice so proscribed is in DR 2-101[C]: "public communication that a lawyer is a specialist, has special training or ability, or limits his practice, except as permitted under DR 2-105." DR 2-105[A] provides:
A lawyer admired to practice before the United States Patent Office may use the designation "Patents," "Patent Attorney," or "Patent Lawyer," or any combination of those terms, on his letterhead and office sign.
On several occasions, this committee has considered the case of a lawyer practicing actively in two professions. In all of those instances, the concern has been the prohibition of DR 2-102[D] and avoidance of use of the non-law business or profession as a feeder or source of indirect solicitation for the attorney's law practice. See Opinions 65, 82, 84 and 108.
The fact situation is different here. The attorney making this request intends to engage in one of the three legal "specialties" expressly recognized by the Disciplinary Rules (they being patent, trademark, and admiralty law). DR 2-105[A]. His licensure as a Registered Professional Engineer is relevant to an evaluation of his training or competence to engage in that area of practice. Since he is not actively engaged in the practice of engineering, there is no danger that his other profession will serve as a feeder for his law practice. In the circumstances, the use of his professional designation in the manner proposed is not improper. The same analysis would apply to others holding professional degrees or licenses [C.P.A.s or M.D.s, for example] engaged exclusively in the practice of law.