NEW YORK COUNTY LAWYERS’ ASSOCIATION
COMMITTEE ON PROFESSIONAL ETHICS
In answering questions this Committee acts by virtue of the following provision of the By-laws of the Association, Article 54, Section 3:
“This Committee shall have power, when consulted, to advise inquirers respecting questions of proper professional conduct, reporting its action to the Board of Directors from time to time.”
It is understood that this Committee acts on specific questions submitted ex-parte and in its answers bases its opinion on such facts only as are set forth in the question.
QUESTION NO. 662
TOPIC: LETTERHEAD; SIGNATURE; “OF COUNSEL” DESIGNATION
DIGEST: NO ETHICAL REQUIREMENT OF DISCLOSURE OF “OF COUNSEL” RELATIONSHIP ON LETTERHEAD UNLESS ATTORNEY’S NAME APPEARS: NO ETHICAL REQUIREMENT TO DISCLOSURE “OF COUNSEL” RELATIONSHIP WITH SIGNATURE
If an attorney is “of counsel” to a firm, must the attorney’s name appear on the letterhead? If an attorney is “of counsel” to a firm must the attorney indicate his or her position when he signs correspondence?
ANSWER TO QUESTION NO. 662
In rendering this opinion, we assume that the “of counsel” designation referred to in the inquiry is proper in the circumstances. A discussion of whether a relationship may properly be described as “of counsel” is contained in A.B.A. Formal Opinion 330 (1972), and New York City Opinion 81-92, and is beyond the scope of this opinion.
We see no ethical requirement precluding the omission from a firm’s letterhead of the name of an attorney who is “of counsel” to a firm. Letterheads listing only the firm name without a listing of attorneys, or listing only partners, are common and in compliance with ethical requirements. If, however, the name of an attorney with an “of counsel” relationship appears on the letterhead, the nature of his or her relationship with the firm should be disclosed, as the absence of such a designation would suggest a different relationship (See EC 2-13).
Similarly, in a case where the attorney’s name is not on the letterhead, we see no ethical requirement that an attorney who is “of counsel” indicate such relationship with his or her signature on correspondence. For an “of counsel” relationship to exist, such an attorney must maintain a close, regular and personal relationship with the firm (See Opinions 330 and 81-92, supra). The signature alone does not imply otherwise.
November 9, 1984