Advisory Opinion 30
Advertising a member's credentials and expertise (Originally written, 1996; Revised, 1996)
Statement of Facts
The Committee on Professional Ethics felt it important to render an advisory opinion regarding a Member's representation of the Member's credentials and expertise under the following scenarios:
(1) In 1965, a state legislature enacted a voluntary state certification program for shorthand reporters. A reporter who passed the state's certification test could use a "CSR" designation to signify such status. In 1978, the state legislature repealed the CSR law and eliminated the state body responsible for oversight and enforcement of the law. May a reporter who previously passed the state's certification test continue to use the CSR designation after the repeal of the state certification law?
(2) A Member regularly advertises that the Member is an expert in reporting or transcribing certain kinds of cases or proceedings.
(1) Provision No. 5 of the Code requires a Member to be truthful and accurate when making public statements or when advertising the Member's qualifications or the services provided. The public, the bench and the bar have the right to expect that a member's credentials accurately reflect the member's qualifications, expertise and experience. After the state legislature repealed the regulation and enforcement, the state effectively removed official recognition of the CSR designation. To use any official designation, whether CSR, CCR or otherwise, when the basis for that designation no longer exists is misleading. The Committee believes that the use of such a credential under the circumstances presented above constitutes a violation of the Code Provision No. 5 because the state no longer certifies nor regulates shorthand reporters.
(2) Advertising one's status as an expert in reporting or transcribing certain kinds of cases or proceedings is an extremely difficult issue. What makes one an expert in these areas? Who is responsible for making the determination that the member is an "expert" in such cases?
Although the Committee recognizes that there may be Members who regularly report or transcribe certain types of cases, who have the background necessary to report such cases and/or who have received specialized training in one form or another in transcribing or reporting a particular kind of case, the Committee believes that advertising that a Member is an "expert" in reporting or transcribing a particular kind of case is misleading when there exists no established criteria or standards for determining expertise in that field. The Committee believes that until appropriate, objective criteria or standards are established for "expert" status, holding oneself out as an expert in a specific field of verbatim reporting where no such criteria or standards exist is an inaccurate representation of one's credentials and constitutes a violation of Provision No. 5 of the Code. The Committee suggests that, instead of using the terms "expert" or "specialist" to describe their services, Members might want to consider using phrases such as "experienced in" or "has familiarity with" specific types of cases that require transcription.
Of course, if a Member has received certification that the Member is an expert in reporting or transcribing a particular type of case, the Committee believes that advertising such a credential is permissible.
Under the first scenario, the Committee on Professional Ethics believes that use of the CSR designation under the circumstances presented is a violation of Provision No. 5. Under the second scenario, the Committee believes that the use of the term "expert" under the circumstances presented may constitute a violation of Provision No. 5 if there is a lack of objective criteria and standards necessary to determine whether one is an expert in reporting or transcribing a particular type of case.
THIS PUBLIC ADVISORY OPINION REFLECTS THE STATUS OF THE LAW IN MOST JURISDICTIONS. MEMBERS ARE REQUIRED TO CONFORM TO THE ACCEPTED PRACTICES SET FORTH IN THIS PUBLIC ADVISORY OPINION TO THE EXTENT THAT SUCH PRACTICES ARE CONSISTENT WITH THEIR OWN APPLICABLE STATE AND LOCAL LAWS, RULES AND REGULATIONS.