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Non-Attorney using "J.D." Designation

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quincy

Senior Member
Most people don't put the initials of their degree after their name (doctors excepted). But they CAN. To suggest that those who have earned one specific degree are barred from doing so because MAYBE someone might make an assumption about their profession is ludicrous.
It can depend on where and why the person is using the title. A title cannot be used to deceive others into believing something that is false. A lawyer cannot go into a hospital stating he is a doctor, for example, if a patient in the hospital is led to believe the lawyer is a medical doctor.

Context matters.
 

justalayman

Senior Member
It can depend on where and why the person is using the title. A title cannot be used to deceive others into believing something that is false. A lawyer cannot go into a hospital stating he is a doctor, for example, if a patient in the hospital is led to believe the lawyer is a medical doctor.

Context matters.
But a person with a JD using it after their name is not in itself deceptive. The op said the person has not represented themselves as an attorney.
 

quincy

Senior Member
But a person with a JD using it after their name is not in itself deceptive. The op said the person has not represented themselves as an attorney.
Right. I don't see a problem using J.D. based strictly on what has been said.

Whether it is a problem depends on why it is being used and how consumers are viewing the use.

Here is a link to an older ethics opinion published by the San Diego County Bar Association - and I should note that California has changed their rules since this was published: https://www.sdcba.org/index.cfm?Pg=ethicsopinion69-5
 

Taxing Matters

Overtaxed Member
It can depend on where and why the person is using the title. A title cannot be used to deceive others into believing something that is false. A lawyer cannot go into a hospital stating he is a doctor, for example, if a patient in the hospital is led to believe the lawyer is a medical doctor.

Context matters.
Context and practice do matter. In the case of doctors and dentists it is extremely common for those professionals to use MD or DDS, as the case may be, after their names. Thus, to the general public, the use of those initials is likely to be connected with the person being a licensed doctor or dentist. Thus, for persons having those degrees who are not licensed a little more care would be needed regarding when and how those designations are used. The public does not see JD associated with lawyers very often. Indeed, I'll bet that most of the public does not even know the JD is the degree given by most law schools in the U.S. For that reason it is very unusual for lawyers to put the JD after their names on their letterheads, correspondence, office doors, etc. Rather, the practice is to use the term lawyer or attorney, something the public more readily understands. So it would be harder for a person with a JD to give a false impression that he or she is licensed to practice law just by putting those initials after their name. Of course, in some circumstances that could be a problem, but those will be fewer than with the use of MD or DDS. It's just a reflection of the differences in how these professions developed. The JD is a much newer degree; it used to the standard law degree was a LL.B (Bachelors of Laws).
 

quincy

Senior Member
Context and practice do matter. In the case of doctors and dentists it is extremely common for those professionals to use MD or DDS, as the case may be, after their names. Thus, to the general public, the use of those initials is likely to be connected with the person being a licensed doctor or dentist. Thus, for persons having those degrees who are not licensed a little more care would be needed regarding when and how those designations are used. The public does not see JD associated with lawyers very often. Indeed, I'll bet that most of the public does not even know the JD is the degree given by most law schools in the U.S. For that reason it is very unusual for lawyers to put the JD after their names on their letterheads, correspondence, office doors, etc. Rather, the practice is to use the term lawyer or attorney, something the public more readily understands. So it would be harder for a person with a JD to give a false impression that he or she is licensed to practice law just by putting those initials after their name. Of course, in some circumstances that could be a problem, but those will be fewer than with the use of MD or DDS. It's just a reflection of the differences in how these professions developed. The JD is a much newer degree; it used to the standard law degree was a LL.B (Bachelors of Laws).
No argument from me here. :)

I imagine that in those areas where the populace knows what J.D. stands for it is also understood that it does not mean the degree-holder is a lawyer.
 
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Taxing Matters

Overtaxed Member
Look at
People v. Lebbos, H030422
California Court of Appeals, Sixth District
February 14, 2008
I’m not sure what point it is that you wish to make by referencing this unreported case. A whole lot more conduct by the defendant was involved than just using JD and ESQ after her name. It was the totality of her conduct, and most notably that she was a disbarred attorney who was actually conducting a business that offered legal services that did her in. The court stated:

Count 1 alleged that defendant advertised or held herself out as authorized to practice law during the period February 1, 2000 through March 7, 2001. Witnesses Rosman, Domingo, Kissinger, and Glassey each testified that defendant provided services to them during the pertinent time period. For the reasons described in the preceding section, their testimony was evidence of defendant's holding herself out as authorized to practice law. Defendant argues that all of the witnesses who contacted her for assistance in State Bar proceedings, except for Kissinger, testified that they knew defendant was a disbarred attorney. The argument misrepresents the evidence. Only Halperin testified that he learned that defendant was a disbarred attorney, and then only after asking her directly about her background.

Other evidence to support the count 1 conviction is found in defendant's use of the title, “Esq.” on the title page of the Lawyer, Defend Yourself books. As Ross, Halperin and Bohrn testified, “Esq.” is commonly used as an honorific for attorneys. Defendant's brochures contained statements such as: “We do your briefs and answer your questions for you,” “Out source professional responsibility issues. Bring in an expert to assist you,” and “Only two attorneys have been exonerated of all charges in nine years. Attorney Richard Murphy is one of the two attorneys. Lawyer, Defend Yourself prepared his strategy, pleadings, approach, and Lawyer, Defend Yourself structured his result.” The services advertised involve the practice of law. (See Crawford v. State Bar, supra, 54 Cal.2d at pp. 667-668.) None of the advertisements stated that the services were not provided by an attorney or that they were rendered under the supervision of an attorney. Thus, the brochures alone implied that defendant, doing business as Lawyer, Defend Yourself, was authorized to practice law.

Count 2 alleged conduct occurring in the period between August 20, 2002 and June 3, 2004. Evidence to support this count was supplied by Bohrn, who created the Lawyer, Defend Yourself Web site, which was available on the Internet by August 20, 2002. The title bar of the site, “Lawyer defend yourself-expert legal advice on CA State Bar ethics issues,” expressly advertised that Lawyer, Defend Yourself offered legal advice. Furthermore, the language in the title bar reflected what Bohrn thought the company's message should be based upon his interpretation of defendant's brochures and Bohrn's talks with defendant. In effect, therefore, defendant had held herself out to Bohrn as authorized to practice law.

In sum, the evidence was sufficient to support a guilty verdict on both counts.​

People v. Lebbos, No. H030422, 2008 WL 391241, at *9–10 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 14, 2008).
 

quincy

Senior Member
Look at
People v. Lebbos, H030422
California Court of Appeals, Sixth District
February 14, 2008
There are several cases where someone has falsely held themselves out to be a licensed and practicing attorney and has offered legal services to a deceived public.

I think the difference here COULD be that the individual in question is simply noting his degree (for whatever odd reason) but not providing services to the public that makes the use of JD a problem.

Again, it really makes a difference WHY the person in question is using the JD. If it is to deceive the public into thinking he is a practicing lawyer, that is a problem.

The "Esquire" title is reserved exclusively(?) for practicing lawyers so is more problematic.
 

Ohiogal

Queen Bee
I just said look at it. Did I say my thoughts one or the other? NO. I just said look at this case. Why? Because it made a point of bringing up the notice of a J.D. degree. What you get out of it is on you.
 

quincy

Senior Member
I just said look at it. Did I say my thoughts one or the other? NO. I just said look at this case. Why? Because it made a point of bringing up the notice of a J.D. degree. What you get out of it is on you.
I looked at it. :)

I still find the addition of JD after a name a bit silly, whether used as a tool of deception or not.
 

justalayman

Senior Member
I looked at it. :)

I still find the addition of JD after a name a bit silly, whether used as a tool of deception or not.
I don’t know if I feel the same. I follow my name with BS...

And I don’t even have a bachelor of science degree:eek::D


I think the term you might have had in mind is pretentious. It sounds like the guy has an inferiority complex.
 

quincy

Senior Member
I don’t know if I feel the same. I follow my name with BS...

And I don’t even have a bachelor of science degree:eek::D


I think the term you might have had in mind is pretentious. It sounds like the guy has an inferiority complex.
Hahaha. And here I thought it was OTHERS who added the BS after your name. ;) :p

Pretentious is a better word than silly. I agree.
 

FlyingRon

Senior Member
Old joke:

Q: What do you call the person who finished last in his class at medical school?
A: Doctor.
Q: What do you call the person who finished last in his class at law school?
A: Your honor.
 

quincy

Senior Member
Old joke:

Q: What do you call the person who finished last in his class at medical school?
A: Doctor.
Q: What do you call the person who finished last in his class at law school?
A: Your honor.
Q: What do you call a lawyer who has gone bad?
A: Senator.
 

HighwayMan

Super Secret Senior Member
Based upon my experiences dealing with people, I'd say the vast majority of Americans have no clue what a J.D. is and certainly wouldn't associate those letters with an attorney. Most of the time it's too much to even ask someone to read a clearly posted speed limit sign.
 

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