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ETHICS OPINION 214
NUMBER 214 1923
Question. A and B constitute a firm of practicing patent solicitors, practicing in the City of New York. A and B are both registered patent attorneys admitted to practice before the United States Patent Office. A is a barrister at law and solicitor practicing in Canada. B is not a lawyer, A and B wish C, a member of the New York Bar, to allow them to put his, C’s, name on one corner of their letterhead, followed by the word “Counsel” or “Resident Counsel” A and B also wish to put A’s name on the other corner of their letterhead, followed by the letters “K.C.” meaning King’s Counsel, and the word “Counsels,” or the words “Chief Counsel and Expert.” There is to be no written agreement between A and B and C, but simply an understanding that A and B will turn over to C what law business they can in connection with their patent business, C to make no division of legal fees with A and B whatever, A and B consider that it would be an advantage to them to have C’s name on their letterhead as counsel in that they would act as patent experts on legal matters turned over to C.
Is it the opinion of your Committee that it would be unprofessional for C to allow A and B to use his, C’s, name upon their letterhead upon the understanding as above set forth?
Is it the opinion of your Committee that it would be proper and right for A and B to place A’s name on their letterhead followed by the letters “K.C.” meaning King’s Counsel, and the word or words “Counsel” or “Chief Counsel and Expert”?
Answer. The Committee, assuming that the Canadian lawyer does not intend to practice law in New York, does not feel that it should express an opinion upon the propriety of his conduct.
The Committee (in its answer in Opinion 209) has expressed its opinion that a partnership cannot properly be formed between a layman (though a registered patent attorney) and a lawyer for the performance of legal services. While the present question indicates that the New York lawyer is not to be a member of the partnership, nevertheless, his association as counsel and its announcement on the letterhead, conveys the implication that the patent attorneys are prepared to furnish the services of the lawyer. The Committee is therefore of the opinion that the course suggested is improper.
The Committee has heretofore indicated that in certain cases, for instance, a corporation’s, bank’s, trust company’s, or reorganization or creditors’ committee’s announcement of its purposes by advertising in newspapers or circulars or upon its letterheads, or a trade organization’s or association’s stationery (see Question 47, VIII), the appearance of a lawyer’s name as counsel on letterheads of his clients is not improper; it distinguishes the present case on the ground that its implication (as above stated) is that the patent attorneys are prepared to furnish to their clients the services of the counsel, rather than that the counsel is the professional adviser of the firm.
In giving this explanation, the Committee does not intend to preclude itself from extending or applying this distinction in other cases.