99 N.J.L.J. 473
June 3, 1976
Office Letterhead with Attorney's Name and
"and Associates"; Listing Paralegals and
Administrator; with or without Legal Identification
The inquirer is a member of a law firm which specializes in representing creditors for consumer financing. It has a large staff of paralegal personnel and in addition to the inquirer there are four other lawyers on the staff. Essentially, a matter for collection is handled exclusively by non-lawyer personnel in all uncontested collection matters, from setting up the file initially, preparation and filing of the pleading, to the entry of default and the issuance of execution, if any. A lawyer does, however, sign the
complaint. The inquirer, in an effort to circumvent our Opinion 296, 98 N.J.L.J. 105 (1975), and our supplemental Opinion 296, 99 N.J.L.J. 113 (1976), has designed two letterheads, one merely stating the name of the lawyer and adding "and Associates," without reference to the fact that it is a law firm, and another letterhead
using the same name, but indicating that it is a law office. In addition, on both letterheads the name of the person in charge of the administration of the office is named in the center at the bottom. The inquirer seeks an expression from this Committee as to whether it is proper to delete any reference to a law firm in connection with all letters being sent by paralegal personnel inasmuch as so much of the work is conducted by them, rather than by lawyers.
Our Opinion 224, 94 N.J.L.J. 1206 (1971), is dispositive of the inquirer's question. Clearly the name of a lawyer followed by "and Ascots" is ethical as long as the names of all associates appear on the letterhead. The name without reference to the fact that it is a law firm is clearly misleading and is proscribed in DR 2-102(B). The use of this letterhead without reference to the fact that it is a law firm would still be unethical, even if the inquirer had no associates as such, but merely shared office space with them. In that event, he could not list them on his letterhead as associates, but the letterhead would still be misleading and in the nature of a trade name were it to be used without reference to the fact that it is a law firm.
Furthermore, it is unethical to name an administrator of the law firm on the letterhead whether that administrator is or is not a lawyer. If the administrator is a layman, the same is proscribed by DR 2-102(A)(4). See also Drinker, Legal Ethics 228 (1965). If the administrator is a lawyer, it is still unethical to name him as
such. Drinker, Legal Ethics 228-9 (1965) indicates that it is unethical for a lawyer to indicate on his letterhead other occupations in which he is engaged. Likewise, this Committee, in referring to the ABA Committee on Professional Ethics, Informal Opinion 1000 (1967) in our opinion 296, supra, has already given indirectly the same Opinion, that is, that a lawyer who may be administrator of the law firm may not be so designated on the letterhead. Office management is essentially a nonlegal occupation and in any event, the only purpose which would be apparent in including the designation of an administrator or office manager on the letterhead would be to impress upon those seeing the letterhead the size, importance, and efficiency of the firm, which could be defined as self-laudatory or "puffing". Both of these are proscribed by the Code of Professional Responsibility.