ETHICS OPINION 316
NUMBER 316 1933
Question. X.A. and B were practicing lawyers under the firm name of A & B. X.A. died, and his surviving partner continued to practice law under the name of A & B for approximately one year.
Thereafter B formed a co-partnership with C and D for the practice of law, and these three persons adopted as the name of their firm “A, C, B & D.”
Y.A., a brother of X.A., also engaged in the practice of law, objects to the use of the name of X.A. as any part of the firm name used by B, C and D.
Is it professionally proper for C, B & D to use the name of X.A. in their firm name?
Answer. The continued use of partnership names after the death of a partner is a matter which may be governed by local law or by local custom. Canon 33 of the American Bar Association upon partnerships and partnership names deals with the general subject of such continued use (in the absence of prohibition or condition in local law or local custom).
The following is an extract: “The continued use of the name of a deceased or former partner is or may be permissible by local custom, but care should be taken that no imposition or deception is practiced through this use.”
The Committee expresses no opinion upon the application to such a situation of the provisions of statutes of New York on partnership names (Penal Law, Section 440 as amended; Partnership Law, Sections 80. 81 and 82). It is not unusual in New York City for law firms to continue the use in their partnership names of the names of deceased former partners, even through a succession of firms with new members. In general this is not deemed in the profession or in the community to be fraught with imposition or deception. In exceptional cases, or under special circumstances, it may be considered objectionable (e.g. Matter of Kaffenburgh, 115 App. Div. 346; 188 N.Y. 49). Where the practice is not condemned by law, or is not inconsistent with local custom, or where conditions imposed by law for the continued use of the names of deceased or former partners are complied with, the Committee does not consider that the continued use of such names is professionally improper, though objection is made by a brother of the deceased.