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Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct

Rule 7.4Communication of Fields of Practice and Certification


A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law.


A lawyer admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office may use the designation "Patent Attorney" or a substantially similar designation.


A lawyer engaged in admiralty practice may use the designation "Admiralty," "Proctor in Admiralty," or a substantially similar designation.


In any communication subject to Rule 7.2, 7.3, or 7.5, a lawyer shall not state or imply that a lawyer is a specialist or certified as a specialist in a particular field of law except as follows:

(1) the communication shall clearly identify the name of the certifying organization, if any, in the communication; and

(2) if the attorney is not certified as a specialist or if the certifying organization is not accredited by the Minnesota Board of Legal Certification, the communication shall clearly state that the attorney is not certified by any organization accredited by that Board, and in any advertising subject to Rule 7.2, this statement shall appear in the same sentence that communicates the certification.

(Amended effective January 1, 1996; amended effective October 1, 2005.)


[1] Paragraph (a) of this rule permits a lawyer to indicate areas of practice in communications about the lawyer's services. If a lawyer practices only in certain fields, or will not accept matters except in a specified field or fields, the lawyer is permitted to so indicate. A lawyer is generally permitted to state that the lawyer is a "specialist," practices a "specialty," or "specializes in" particular fields, but such communications are subject to the "false and misleading" standard applied in Rule 7.1 to communications concerning a lawyer's services.

[2] Paragraph (b) recognizes the long-established policy of the Patent and Trademark Office for the designation of lawyers practicing before the Office. Paragraph (c) recognizes that designation of the Admiralty practice has a long historical tradition associated with maritime commerce and the federal courts.

[3] Paragraph (d) permits a lawyer to state that the lawyer is certified as a specialist in a field of law if such certification is granted by an organization that has been accredited by the Board on Legal Certification. Certification signifies that an objective entity has recognized an advanced degree of knowledge and experience in the specialty area greater than is suggested by general licensure to practice law. Certifying organizations may be expected to apply standards of experience, knowledge and proficiency to insure that a lawyer's recognition as a specialist is meaningful and reliable. In order to insure that consumers can obtain access to useful information about an organization granting certification, the name of the certifying organization must be included in any communication regarding the certification.

[4] Lawyers may also be certified as specialists by organizations that either have not yet been accredited to grant such certification or have been disapproved. In such instances, the consumer may be misled as to the significance of the lawyer's status as a certified specialist. The rule therefore requires that a lawyer who chooses to communicate recognition by such an organization also clearly state the absence or denial of the organization's authority to grant such certification. Because lawyer advertising through public media and written or recorded communications invites the greatest danger of misleading consumers, the absence or denial of the organization's authority to grant certification must be clearly stated in such advertising in the same sentence that communicates the certification.

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