129 N.J.L.J. 270
September 26, 1991
Law Firm Name: Additional
This Opinion is occasioned by the Committee's recent
consideration of separate grievances concerning, among other
things, the law firm names employed by two sole practitioners.
Although one matter resulted in a recommendation of private
discipline after formal hearing, and the other was resolved
informally, the Committee determined that the one issue common to
both warranted a formal advisory opinion.
The names the Committee found objectionable were:
(1) Doe and Company
(2) Accidental Injury Legal Practice Robert Roe, P.A.
Prior to the amendments adopted June 29, 1990, and effective September 4, 1990, RPC 7.5(a) provided that
A lawyer shall not use a law firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates RPC 7.1. Except for nonprofit legal aid or public interest law firms, the name under which a lawyer or law firm practices shall contain only the full or last names of one or more lawyers in the firm or office or the names of a person or persons who have ceased to be associated with the firm through death or retirement.
The then seemingly insurmountable obstacle to the use of additional identifying language was that part of the rule which limited firm names to only the full or last names of those lawyers actively practicing with the firm and/or those lawyers who had been active but retired or died. In its employment of the words "shall contain only," instead of a more permissive "shall include," the rule clearly prohibited a for profit law firm name from containing any words or phrases other than proper names. CAA Opinion 2, 120 N.J.L.J. 789 (1987), petition for review granted sub nom Frank P. Friedman & Associates and Casha & Associates v. Committee on Attorney Advertising, 114 N.J. 315 (1988).
The question of whether the name under which a lawyer or law firm practices may include additional identifying language was ultimately referred to the Ad Hoc Supreme Court Committee on Law Firm Names. In its Report, 125 N.J.L.J. 316 (1990), the Ad Hoc Committee concluded that additional identifying language such as "& Associates," "A & Sons," "B & Niece" or "C Brothers" was not inherently misleading and should be permitted "so long as the individuals to whom the identifying language refers are, in fact, lawyers actively practicing with the firm." Id at 320. Consequently, it recommended that RPC 7.5 be revised in two respects.
The Ad Hoc Committee's first recommendation was that the second sentence of RPC 7.5(a) be amended to delete the restrictive "shall contain only" and replace it with the more permissive "shall include the full or last names...." The second recommendation was that the following provision be added to RPC 7.5 as a new paragraph: