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                                         120 N.J.L.J. 476
                                        September 10, 1987


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


Firm Name: Foreign Law Corporation
Practicing as a Partnership in New Jersey

    The inquirer is licensed to practice law in New Jersey and New York, and is an associate with a New York law firm. That firm is organized as a professional corporation. Pursuant to statute, the corporate status of the firm is identified by the letters "P.C." following the last names of the firm's founding and senior partners. According to the inquirer, the "P.C." designation is part of the firm name in New York, which is known there as "X & Y, P.C."
    The law firm wishes to establish a New Jersey office for which the inquirer will serve as managing attorney. The firm has not formed a professional corporation in New Jersey, as permitted by R. 1:21-1A, et seq. The inquirer now asks whether the firm may operate in this state as a partnership under the name "X & Y."
    The permissibility of firm names is governed by RPC 7.5, et seq. RPC 7.5(a) states:
        A lawyer shall not use a 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 of the 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.

    Attorneys "X" and "Y," the named partners, are active members of the law firm, though neither is admitted to practice in New Jersey. Unlike former DR 2-102(C), the above rule does not require that a firm name include only the names of New Jersey attorneys. Hence, the firm name could be composed of the respective last names of X and Y.
    In reaching this conclusion, we note a distinction between the inquirer's proposal and that contemplated by RPC 7.5(b). That rule permits a "law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction [to] use the same name in each jurisdiction." The rule is not applicable here because the firm will not practice in New Jersey as a professional corporation. Its name will, therefore, differ from that used in New York.
    However, the senior partners will continue to have their names used in the firm name. This creates a potentially confusing situation in which the New Jersey law partnership will have an almost identical name to that of the New York law corporation. Because corporate status confers certain rights and obligations on law firms in New Jersey, we believe it advisable that the firm clearly identify its affiliation with the New York law corporation, and the fact that it is practicing as a partnership in this state.

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