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                                         94 N.J.L.J. 600
                                        July 8, 1971


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


Use of Name of Retired
or Deceased Partner

    We have been asked two questions. The first is:

    Is it ethical for partners in a law firm whose names do not appear in the firm name to continue to use the firm name after the retirement of a partner whose name appears in the firm name?

    It has recently been held that this is ethical provided the retiring member ceases to practice law but that if the retiring member continues to practice law in New Jersey, his name should be omitted from the firm name in order to avoid misleading the public. N.J. Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinion 198, 94 N.J.L.J. 209 (1971).
    The second question is:
    Is it ethical for partners in a law firm whose names do not appear in the firm name to continue to use the firm name after the death or retirement of all of the partners whose names appear in the firm name or in the alternative to use some of the names but less than all or some of the names with the addition of the names of other living partners not formerly included in the firm name?

    The answer to the second question is controlled by the Canons of Professional Ethics, Canons 27 and 33. No prior opinion of this
Committee is exactly on point but the matter is clearly answered in ABA Comm. on Professional Ethics, Opinion 598 (1962), where in it is stated:

        Since the canon as now worded was adopted, our Committee has held in a number of instances that the continuing use by the surviving partners of a firm name which includes the names of deceased partners is not unethical, if it is permitted by local custom, and if no imposition or deception is practiced through this use. No distinction is made in the canon as to changes in names involving those who were partners during the lifetime of the deceased partners, and in those cases where the new name added is of a partner who came into the firm after the death of the former partner. We believe there is no difference in principle.

    It is to be noted that the use of the name of a deceased partner is subject to four conditions:
    1.    That it be permitted by local custom;
    2.    That no imposition or deception be practiced through its use;

    3.    That the letterhead show clearly that the deceased partner is deceased or his name is not shown at all; and

    4.    That there is a bona fide continuing partner relationship. Subject to these limitations, the Committee concludes that it is permissible to use the name of any or all of the deceased partners in any combination thereof with the names of any or all of the present partners.

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