NUMBER 411 JUNE 1952
Question. We were, up until the early part of this year, a law partnership of three members—A, B, and C. On February 18, 1952, C was forced to withdraw from the firm because of illness, A and B, however, would prefer to continue the firm name at least for the balance of this year, and C for his part has no objection to our doing so. Is it ethically proper for us to continue the firm name and to take professional matters in the firm name, under these circumstances? We would prefer to do so solely for reasons of expediency. It is our intention to effect an organizational change by the end of the year.
Answer. Canon 33 of the Canons of Professional Ethics, adopted in 1928, provides: “The continued use of the name of a deceased or former partner, when permissible by local custom, is not unethical but care should be taken that no imposition or deception is practiced through this use.”
In answer to a similar question, this Committee in 1915 (Opinion 67), prior to the adoption of Canon 33, stated:
In the opinion of the Committee, and in view of many well-known instances, there is no impropriety in the continued use by surviving or continuing members of a legal co-partnership of a firm name which contains the name of a deceased or retiring partner, provided the provisions of the Partnership Law (if applicable) are complied with, and provided, further, that there are no special circumstances, such as the disbarment of the retiring partner or his elevation to the Bench, which would make such a course improper. (See Matter of Kaffenburgh, 188 N.Y. 49.)
Similar views were expressed by the Committee on Professional Ethics and Grievances of the American Bar Association in 1925 (A.B.A. Opinion 6), prior to the adoption of Canon 33, and in 1933 (A.B.A. Opinion 97), after the adoption of the Canon.
Local custom in New York has recognized that the name of a law firm does not necessarily identify the individual members of the firm.
The adoption of Canon 33 does not require any modification in the views of this Committee as expressed in Opinion 67.