92 N.J.L.J. 333
May 22, 1969
An attorney inquires as follows:
1. P is a partnership of New Jersey attorneys
maintaining an office only in New Jersey; a
substantial part of P's practice is before
federal agencies outside New Jersey. L is a
lawyer practicing before the same agencies; L
is admitted only in another state, but
proposes to maintain no office there.
May partnership P properly permit lawyer L, in his capacity as a member of the bar of another state, to join with it either as a partner or as an associate, in either case shown as such on P's letterhead, within the limitations that L himself refrain from activities constituting the practice of law in New Jersey, and that P's letterhead clearly show L's admission only outside New Jersey but no other data peculiar to L?
2. If 4 an individual practicing New Jersey attorney, be substituted for partnership P in Question 1, does the answer remain the same?
Canons of Professional Ethics, Canon 33 provides:
Partnerships among lawyers for the practice of their
profession are very common and are not to be condemned.
In the formation of partnerships and use of partnership
names, care should be taken not to violate any law,
custom or rule of court locally applicable. 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. In the formation of partnerships
for the practice of law, no person should be admitted or
held out as a practitioner or member who is not a member
of the legal profession duly authorized to practice, and
amendable to professional discipline. In the selection
and use of a firm name, no false, misleading, assumed or
trade name should be used.
The formation of partnerships between attorneys authorized to practice in different jurisdictions is not unethical. American Bar Association, Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinion 316 (1967). It is a matter of law, not of ethics, as to where an individual may practice law. The objectionable feature of such an interstate partnership is in the use of a false or misleading name. Drinker, Legal Ethics, 205 (1961), states this as an immutable rule:
The partnership name may not include that of one not locally admitted, despite explanatory statements on the letterhead, shingle, etc. since the name, used where no such explanation accompanied it, would imply that all the named partners were locally admitted.
A New Jersey firm is presumed, for all purposes, to consist of lawyers who have been admitted to practice in the State of New Jersey. No firm name may be chosen which would tend to induce a belief that a11 members of the firm were admitted to practice in the State of New Jersey, if such is not the case. In this Committee's Opinion 36, 87 N.J.L.J. 190 (1964), we held that a firm of New Jersey attorneys could not form an association restricted exclusively to the practice of patent law with an attorney who was admitted to the practice of law in the District of Columbia but not in New Jersey. We held that the proposed formation of a partnership and the inclusion of the attorney's name followed by the designation "Patent Attorney" was improper. We did say, however, it would be proper to have his name on the stationery with the quotation "Admitted in Washington, D.C. Only."
In N.Y. County Lawyers Assn., Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinion 457 (1957), a partnership between New York lawyers and lawyers of another state was held to be proper provided that the firm name did not contain the name of the foreign attorneys and the list of partners clearly indicated that they were not members of the New York bar. See also N.Y. County Lawyers Assn., Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinion 507 (1962), to the same effect.
In Illinois State Bar Association, Professional Ethics Opinion 250 (1965), it was held that a partnership of four attorneys in a neighboring state could not employ an Illinois attorney and open a branch office in a border city in Illinois using its firm name on a professional sign and on its letterhead. See also A.B.A. Comm. on Professional Ethics and Grievances, Opinion 277 (1948).
The preliminary draft of the Code of Professional Responsibility of the American Bar Association's Special Committee on Evaluation of Ethical Standards proposes as follows:
Disciplinary Rule 2-104:
(C) A lawyer shall not hold himself out as having a partnership with one or more other lawyers unless they are in fact partners.
(D) A partnership shall not be formed or continued between or among lawyers licensed in different jurisdictions unless all enumerations of the members and associates of the firm on its letterhead and in other permissible listings make clear the jurisdictional limitations on those members and associates of the firm not licensed to practice in all listed jurisdictions; however, the same firm name may be used in each jurisdiction.