NUMBER 374 1946
Question. A is a member of the New York Bar and also of the District of Columbia Bar. He has an office for the practice of law in New York City and also in Washington, D.C., and divides his time between these offices, spending the greater amount of his time, however, in his New York office. He resides in New York State.
Recently A formed a partnership for the practice of law in the District of Columbia with B and C each of whom is a member of the District of Columbia Bar but not of the New York Bar. The name of the partnership is A, B, & C. Although the partnership is engaged in the general practice of the law in Washington, D.C., its principal practice lies in the field of Federal laws and regulations and practice before Federal administrative agencies, bodies, and commissions.
The New York practice of A is a general practice also, but he, too, practices principally in the field of Federal laws and regulations and before Federal administrative bodies for his New York clients. Such practice involves frequent trips to Washington during which he uses the Washington office of the aforesaid partnership. When A has a matter for a New York client involving work in Washington, he frequently calls upon his Washington office and Washington partners for assistance in such work. At the present time, no reference is made on A’s letterhead to his Washington office and partnership, nor is any reference made on the letterhead of the Washington partnership to the fact that A has a New York office.
1. Would it be proper for A to include on his letterhead the following statement:
Washington, D.C., Associates:
A, B, & C
2. Would it be proper for the Washington partnership to include on its letterhead the following statement:
Mr. A’s New York Office:
[Giving A’s New York office address]
3. If it would be proper for A to include some reference to his Washington partnership and for the latter to include some reference to A’s New York office on their respective letterheads, but the foregoing statements are deemed improper, will the Committee suggest statements which would be proper or state the principles to be followed in drafting proper statements?
4. Would it be proper to include on the office doors of the New York and Washington offices, respectively, the same statements as are included on the respective letterheads as above suggested?
Answer. Canon 33 of the Canons of Professional Ethics of the American Bar Association, dealing with partnerships and partnership names, provides in par? as follows:
Where partnerships are formed between lawyers who are not all admitted to practice in the courts of the State, care should be taken to avoid any misleading name or representation which would create a false impression as to the professional position or privileges of the member not locally admitted. . . . In the selection and use of a firm name no false, misleading, assumed or trade name should be used.
In a recent opinion (New York Law Journal, March 15, 1946. p. 1028) the Committee on Professional Ethics of The Association of the Bar of the City of New York held that the firm name of a District of Columbia law firm, three of whose five members were also members of the New York Bar, could not be used in New York, although it was proposed that the stationery and office door of the law firm would clearly indicate those members of the firm who were members of the New York Bar.
The question here propounded, however, indicates that the New York member of the law partnership intends to carry on his New York practice under his own name, not under the partnership name, and merely intends to refer to his Washington partnership on his letterhead and office door. The Washington partnership, on the other hand, wishes to include on its office door and letterhead a reference to its New York partner’s office address.
In the opinion of the Committee, the suggested texts in questions 1 and 2 are appropriate to that end, and do not offend the requirement of Canon 33 that, “care should be taken to avoid any misleading name or representation which would create a false impression as to the professional position or privileges of the member not locally admitted.”
In a previous answer in Opinion 134 involving professional relations between a member of the New York Bar and a member of the Pennsylvania Bar this Committee pointed out that: “The essential consideration is that both the sign on the door and the letterhead should exclude the inference that the Pennsylvania lawyer is a member of the New York Bar. Any differentiation of his name that accomplishes this result will relieve the situation of this objectionable feature,”
It is, therefore, the view of the Committee that questions 1, 2 and 4 should be answered in the affirmative, (See also the Opinion 256 of the Committee on Professional Ethics and Grievances of the American Bar Association [A.B.A. Journal, March 1944].)
Although the questions 2 and 4 involve proposed activities of the Washington firm in view of the membership therein of the New York attorney we believe it appropriate to answer these questions.