Like other aspects of the practice of law, lawyer conduct with regard to specialty certification is regulated by the states.
Despite the widespread existence of de facto specialization in the legal profession, during the past several decades a large majority of state disciplinary rules prohibited lawyers from holding themselves out as specialists. Peel v. Attorney Registration Disciplinary Commission brought lawyer specialization into the spotlight of the profession. The U. S. Supreme Court ruled in that case that states may not constitutionally impose a blanket prohibition on a truthful communication by a lawyer that he or she is certified as a specialist by a bona fide organization but may regulate such claims.
The Peel decision disallowing a ban on communications of lawyer certification forced states to reevaluate their positions on the issue. The ABA amended its Model Rules of Professional Conduct in 1993 to allow certification by programs which met rigorous standards of integrity and competence. The ABA model language has already been used by a number of states to bring their ethics codes into constitutional compliance, while others have followed different approaches.
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