94 N.J.L.J. 209
March 25, 1971
Partner Becomes Associate
In Another Firm
A father and son have been law partners for several years, the
son having only a small minimum interest in the partnership. The
son now expects to join another law firm in an adjoining
municipality as an associate and would like to keep his minimum
interest in the partnership, and at the same time be associated
with the other law firm.
Canons of Professional Ethics, Canon 33, provides:
...In the selection and use of a firm name, no false, misleading, assumed or tradename should be used. ...
American Bar Association, Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinion 318 (1967) reviewed in detail Canon 33. On the questions there reviewed, that opinion allowed the continued use of the name of a deceased partner, the use of the name of a member of the firm who goes into the army or obtains private employment, with the intent of returning to the firm. The opinion cautioned, however, that the facts must be clearly stated, always having in mind the objective that the public should not be misled.
The present inquiry, however, presents an entirely different situation. We are presented with a member of the bar whose name will continue with a firm although he will not be active in that firm. The same attorney will be listed as an associate of another law firm in the adjoining municipality. He will be an active associate.
In the New Code of Professional Responsibility, adopted by the American Bar Association, under Ethical Considerations, EC 2-11, we find:
...For many years some law firms have used a firm name retaining one or more names of deceased or retired partners and such a practice is not improper if the firm is a bona fide successor of a firm in which the deceased or retired person was a member, if the use of the name is authorized by law or by contract, and if the public is not misled thereby. However, the name of a partner who withdraws from a firm but continues to practice law should be omitted from the firm name in order to avoid misleading the public. ...
We believe that this reasoning is sound and should govern the inquiry in this case.
It is our opinion that the name of a partner who withdraws from a firm, but continues to practice law in New Jersey, should be omitted from the firm name in order to avoid misleading the public.