Our firm, which for purposes of this submission we will call “A,B,C,D,&E” (A and B are deceased), has its main office in New York, and a smaller office in Washington, D.C., in charge of two partners. All of the partners except one (whose name is not in the firm name) are members of the New York bar. On our letterhead the name of the one who is not a member of the New York bar is followed by an asterisk with a foot-note stating: “Member of the D.C, Bar only”.
We propose to take into our firm as members X and his younger partner Y, who are practicing law together (in X’s name) in a Mid-West State. Both are members of the Bar of that State, but have not been admitted to the Bar of New York. We propose to maintain offices in both States and in the District of Columbia. The enlarged firm will be a general partnership, with a pooling of the income and expenses of all three offices.
Our firm from time to time has matters to be handled in X’s State, with some of which X is acquainted, and which could more efficiently be handled in that State by a firm of our own than by other firms. Our partner C will be admitted on motion to the Bar of that State (which does not require out-of-state attorneys, who have practiced a specified number of years, to become residents); and our firm will thereafter operate in that State under the name of “X,C and Y”. We are advised that the use of such a firm name in that State is permissible.
X has frequent occasions to be in Washington. He has many contacts abroad as well as in different parts of the country, and some of the legal matters which may be derived from these contacts are expected to be handled in Washington. Up to this point our Washington office, with only occasional exceptions, has handled tax work exclusively, and we desire to enlarge it in order more efficiently to service our New York clients in their relations with federal agencies. X will be admitted on motion to the Bar of the District of Columbia (which does not require residence as a prerequisite); and our firm will operate in the District under the name “X,C,D & E”. The use of such a firm name in the District is permissible.
Unless and until X is admitted to the New York Bar, our firm name in New York will continue to be “A,B,C,D & E”, X’s name will be included in the list of partners on the New York letterhead, with an asterisk after his name and a foot-note stating: “Member of the [Mid-West State) and D.C. Bars only”. X has several clients in or near New York and in the past has conferred with them in the course of visits to New York; for his convenience our firm will provide him with a room in our office, but the legend “Member of the [Mid-West State] and D.C. Bars only” will appear either on the door of his room or on the door at the main entrance to the office; and as in the past he will avoid engaging in the practice of law in New York unless and until he is admitted.
The proposed letterhead of the firm’s New York office will contain at the top, in the usual bold type, the firm name “A, B, C, D & E”, and below it the New York address; to the left the name of the various partners, with the asterisks and foot-note references already described above; and to the right the following: “Washington D.C. Office”, below which will appear the name “X,C,D & E”, followed by the Washington street address; and underneath that, “__________Office” (naming the Mid-West city), below which will appear the name “X, C & Y”, followed by the street address. Similarly, the Washington office will refer on its letterhead to the firm names and addresses of the two other offices; and so will the Mid-West office.
We would appreciate the Committee’s opinion as to whether there would be any impropriety in the proposed arrangements as set forth above.
Canon 33 of The Canons of Professional Ethics provides: “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”. This is recognition that partnerships may be formed between attorneys admitted in different states.
The Committee on Professional Ethics of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York has held such partnerships are proper (opinions 628 and 684).
We find no ethical impropriety in the proposed arrangements in view of the provisions of Canon 33. In so doing, we have assumed the legality of the practices involved. However, this Committee does not determine questions of law, and the inquiring firm will have to satisfy itself as to the legality of the proposed arrangements in the jurisdictions involved. In New York, attention is called to a possible conflict with the provisions of Section 270 of the Penal Law. See Matter of N.Y, County Lawyers’ Association (Roel) ________App. Div. 2d. ________(First Department 1957).
To the extent that the above is inconsistent with our opinion 354, this opinion shall govern.
Dated: April 3, 1957.