The Law School from which I graduated with an LL.B degree is now, by authorization of the Regents of the University of the State of New York, granting the degree of J.D. to all graduates who had completed three years of college in an accredited institution before entering law school. As a satisfactory accredited graduate, I have now been granted a J.D. degree in substitution for my former LL.B. degree. I understand that a Committee of the American Bar Association has said that it is not permissible for an attorney to use the title “Doctor”.
When is a doctorate not a doctorate? Every country except the United States permits the holder of a law degree to be addressed as Doctor. Certainly this professional degree should not be denigrated held as less professional or important than an M.D. or dentist’s or veterinarian’s degree. I am a writer as well as an attorney. May I, in your opinion, use the appellation of Doctor in that capacity or in law anyway? I should very much like a clarification of this issue once and for all.
The individual who submitted the above question has stated in part that he understands that a Committee of the American Bar Association has said that it is not permissible for an attorney to use the title “Doctor”. The understanding of the inquiry is correst. A.B.A. Inf. Op. No. 1001. See also City Bar Op. No, 869.
It would seem that if the term could not be used on a letter head, it should not be used to characterize the lawyer in personal relationships.
Apart from the foregoing authorities and as an original proposition, the Committee feels that on the basis of convention it is inappropriate in this country at this time for a practicing lawyer to use the title “Doctor”: perhaps the title would not be inappropriate for one holding an advanced doctorate degree in law who is solely engaged in performing academic duties.
July 23, 1968