87 N.J.L.J. 19
January 9, 1964
An extensive law practice had been conducted by three lawyers
under a firm name which included all three of them. The senior
member died some time ago and the two surviving lawyers continued
the practice until one of them retired in early 1963 and the
remaining living member died a few months ago.
The widow of the last surviving member has requested another lawyer of a neighboring community, who was never associated with the firm, to take over the practice and, at the same time, the widow has indicated her desire that the former office remain intact and that the employees also continue in employment.
The attorney who is considering this move intends to continue his own office at his present address and he inquires as to whether it would be ethical if he maintained two offices, the first being his own where he has been for years, and the second at the address of the partnership, and if he placed on his letterheads of the partnership language similar to the following "John Doe, successor to Black, Brown & White, 123 Main Street, Garden State City, New Jersey."
He also wants to know whether it would be in order for him to send out a notice in some form to the clients of the partnership informing them that he has taken over the law practice and that all records and files have been kept intact.
It is the opinion of this Committee that this contemplated action is definitely improper. It is also the opinion of this Committee that the phrase "successor to," despite the restricted
circulation which the applicant proposes, constitutes solicitation in contravention of the Canons of Professional Ethics, Canon 27. See Ass'n. of the Bar, City of N.Y., Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinion 735 (1949). See also Opinion 798 (1955) of that Committee, which has related language. In that opinion, the Committee reiterated that such conduct would be improper. See also Opinion 803 (1955) of that Committee, wherein it used specific language in stating that it was improper to announce a change in such a way as to solicit the business directly or indirectly of the former clients of the partnership. (See Canon 27, above referred to.)
In addition to the above, with the retirement of one of the partners, and with the death of the other two, it becomes quite obvious that the firm actually has indirectly or directly been dissolved. The continuance of a firm name is the privilege of continuing partners and is not available to an individual lawyer after the firm ceases, in fact, to exist. See Drinker, Legal Ethics 208 (1953).