Ethics Opinion

Opinion No. 81-5

May 1981

Summary: A law firm practicing as a partnership under the name of "A, B & C" may not continue to use B's name in the title of the firm where B is leaving the firm to become an employee of another law firm in the same city.

Facts: A law firm is practicing in the City of Boston as a seven-person partnership under the name of "A, B & C." One of the partners, B, is leaving the partnership to become an employee of another law firm in the City of Boston. The firm, with B's consent, proposes to continue the use of the name "A, B & C."

Discussion: DR 2-102 prohibits the use of an "office sign, letterhead, telephone directory listing ... or similar professional notice or device which includes a deceptive statement or claim." A situation involving the use in a firm name of the names of former deceased partners was discussed in MBA Opinion 75-10. MBA Opinion 75-10 construed former DR 2-110(B) which explicitly permitted a firm name to include "... the name or names of one or more deceased or retired members of the firm or of a predecessor firm in a continuing line of succession." Although DR 2-110(B) was deleted in 1979, the committee does not believe that the amended DR 2-110, which prohibits deceptive statements or claims, proscribes the traditional use of names of deceased or retired members of a predecessor firm. Where an attorney leaves a firm to become an employee of another law firm he has not "retired" within the meaning of former DR 2-110(B). Since B is neither dead nor retired but is, in fact, continuing to practice law in the same city as the partnership, it is difficult to imagine that the use of his name would not suggest to the public that he had a continuing affiliation with the firm. Such a suggestion is inherently deceptive and would therefore be prohibited by DR 2-102.

Permission to publish granted by the Board of Delegates on April 14, 1981.
As stated in the Rules of the Committee on Professional Ethics, this advice is that of a committee without official governmental status.