Attorney Nick Hentoff’s recent blog posting starts out by applauding Super Lawyers for sticking up for lawyers’ First Amendment rights (Thank you, Nick).
But then he raises the question of whether our website, superlawyers.com, is “Super Misleading” for allegedly misusing the the term “specializes” in reference to attorney practice areas. He doesn’t say where exactly where the offending term resides on our site, but instead, cites a passing reference in a North Dakota Ethics Opinion from April 10, 2008 which alleged that our “website states that a search will help in finding a ‘Super Lawyer’ that specializes in a specific area of law,” (State Bar Association of North Dakota Ethics Opinion No. 08-02, page 7).
This statement by the Ethics Committee I found baffling. First, we do not allow, or use the term “Super Lawyer” as alleged by the Committee (the usage is improper on two counts: it is used as a moniker or label, and it is used in the singular. Super Lawyers is a registered mark that is always used by us in the plural form).
Second, we also do not allow our staff to use the term “specializes” unless, of course, the lawyer has in fact been certified as a specialist by an authorized state or federal authority.
I searched and searched and could find no such usage of the term “specializes” on our site. On the contrary, the only reference I could find is in disclaimer language we include at the bottom of every page which says our listings do not certify or designate an attorney as a specialist.
So what was the Committee looking at? Despite our best efforts to police the use of the dreaded “specializes” word, maybe it slipped through the cracks somewhere.
So I put our webmaster on the task to find the offending term. Turns out it was mistakenly included in language written into a meta-tag (for the uniformed like me, meta-tags are the descriptions written by website designers to describe the content of the various pages on a website). The only place one would ever see the term is not on our website, but in the short descriptions accompanying certain search results on Google, Yahoo and others search engines.
We have purged the term “specializes” from the meta-tag and have replaced it with the word, “practices.” Let the world sleep easier tonight.