Friday, March 30, 2012

The Specialties of Kathleen Kane

I learned several things today.  A few of them are applicable to current political races.  Here goes:

The American Bar Association has a Code of Ethics, as many professional associations do.  For a non-blog project I've looked at several such codes but not the ABA's.  Today I did.  Like others the ABA's spells out confidentiality rules, behavioral expectations and so on.  Another common feature is a list of guidelines for how someone in that profession presents themselves.  Occupational groups tend to have their own terminologies or jargon.  For example, point 7.4 of the ABA Code of Ethics states:

(d) A lawyer shall not state or imply that a lawyer is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law, unless:
(1) the lawyer has been certified as a specialist by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate state authority or that has been accredited by the American Bar Association; and
(2) the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication

That seemed odd since many law firm advertisements that I'd seen mentioned they worked with a particular issue or part of the law, but, as in all things, it is the wording that counts.  This is why, kids, you really need to have a firm grasp of a large vocabulary.  Those small differences in meaning can be important.  Lawyers and law firms will talk about "practice areas" or will say "with a focus on."  I checked out about half a dozen law firms in the area whose URLs or names I knew and they all used words like that.  My standard reference point for lawyers is Martindale and looking at their search interface, it also uses the phrase "practice area."  Where I did find the word "specialize" used on a firm's site, there would be a note of the certifying organization.  To double check I googled a few key phrases, such as "specializes in child abuse law" and "specializes in elder abuse law."   There were remarkably few results and most of those were not law firms but articles that use those terms. 

So it was odd to see that Kathleen Kane, a Democratic candidate for Attorney General, uses that phrase on her campaign website: 
As an Assistant District Attorney for Lackawanna County, Kathleen began in the child abuse/sexual assault unit spending several years prosecuting gruesome cases of physical and sexual abuse of children and adults. Simultaneous to the duties of this unit, Kathleen specialized in cases involving elder abuse, prosecuted white-collar criminals, and exposed abuses in Orphans’ Court.

The National Elder Law Foundation states that:

The National Elder Law Foundation is the only national organization certifying practitioners of elder and special needs law. NELF's Certified Elder Law Attorney designation is itself certified by the American Bar Association.

You can search for a certified lawyer by state.  Kathleen Kane is not listed, not under Kane or Granahan, on the PA list.   

This may be significant.  It may not.  In the law, as in many things, the devil is in the details.  This seemed like a detail.

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