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                                         90 N.J.L.J. 53
                                        January 26, 1967


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


Partnership - Not in Fact

    An inquiry has been made as to whether it is proper for two attorneys to hold themselves out as a partnership when not all of their work is done in the partnership form. The inquiry, however, goes on to say that both attorneys are admitted to practice law in the State of New Jersey and are both actively engaged in the practice of law and that each has separate law offices in separate municipalities. They state further that while they work jointly on one of the attorney's trial cases and also work jointly on the other attorney's commercial matters, they divide the fees received from these under some sort of a plan which they call "jointly handled matters". Each uses the office of the other for interviews
and other activities related to the jointly handled matters and each is presently designated "of counsel" on the legal stationery of the other. As to all other matters, they each practice separately and retain the income derived therefrom. They further explain that each pays for his own overhead expenses and with that explanation, they want to know whether it is proper to retain the above arrangement and hold themselves out as "A & B, Attorneys-at-law". From the form of the inquiry we conclude that no partnership in fact exists.

    In Drinker, Legal Ethics 204 (1953), it is stated very definitely that attorneys may not hold themselves out as a partnership where no real partnership, in fact, exists.
    In A.B.A. Comm. on Professional Ethics and Grievances, Opinion 106 (1934), it was held that it was improper for a group of lawyers to hold themselves out as a partnership where, in fact, no partnership existed and the opinion went on further to say that it would be a misrepresentation to the public and a violation of the canon involved to so demean themselves.
    Opinion 115 (1934), by the same committee, reiterated the same rule. That opinion explained in great detail how Canon 33 would be involved and would be violated. The committee held that, in its opinion, a proper appreciation of professional responsibility forbids the continuance of such a course of conduct. The same views
were reiterated in Opinion 126 (1935) and Opinion 277 (1948).
    Canons of Professional Ethics, Canon 33 is complete in its language indicating that what is described in this inquiry should be prohibited. It is elementary that in the selection and use of a partnership or firm name, no false or misleading names or references should be used. It is the opinion of this Committee that it is not proper for these attorneys to hold themselves out as a
partnership because no partnership exists.

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