The lid is off this Pandora’s Box (See my post of March 13, 2008: use of Esq. by lawyer not in the law department.). The mailbag of the columnist who tackled this knotty issue bulged with advice. “Many readers wrote that they have been taught and still believe that it is never appropriate for professionals to apply a title or honorific to themselves.” Whether in the law department or in a non-lawyer role, a designation that discloses someone has been admitted to the bar offends some people. Very odd, as I suspect many medical doctors and holders of doctorates would disagree.
“Other readers responded that the use of ‘Esq.’ by a corporate officer might be considered misleading and therefore unethical because it suggested that the officer had more authority or knowledge than was actually the case. For example, the statement that ’we will bring legal action’ might be considered to be more threatening coming from a lawyer who presumably had the authority to bring the action than from a corporate lawyer who had no such authority.” This convoluted point leaves me confused. Setting aside the “corporate officer” distinction, isn’t it true that any in-house lawyer has the authority to state that the company might pursue its legal remedies?
These readers suggested that a corporate lawyer should use only his or her corporate title (for example, “Vice President for Compliance,” perhaps adding the degree (LLB, JD). It does not seem, throughout the responses printed in NYSBA J., Vol. 80, March/April 2008 at 52, that readers distinguished between lawyers in law departments and lawyers who have moved to non-legal posts.
May this embroglio cease, says Rees Morrison, Esq.