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The Lawyer as "Doctor"

Adopted: April 18, 1986

Opinion rules that attorney holding a Juris Doctor degree may not on that basis refer to himself as holding a Doctorate or use the term "Doctor" to refer to himself.


Attorney X is licensed to practice law in the State of North Carolina and holds a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited university. May Attorney X ethically hold himself out as having a Doctorate, using the term "Doctor" in oral communication, referring to himself as Dr. X, and signing his name Dr. X?


Under the new North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct, it is impermissible under Rule 1.2(c) to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation and impermissible under Rule 2.1 to make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services. Other jurisdictions which have considered this question have ruled both ways. Since it does not appear to be normal practice to refer to a Juris Doctor degree as simply a Doctorate or to refer to an attorney holding a Juris Doctor degree as "Doctor," the use of those terms without explanation could be misleading and therefore is inappropriate.

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