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123 N.J.L.J. 638
March 16, 1989
COMMITTEE ON ATTORNEY ADVERTISING
Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court
Firm Name: Law Firm Practicing
Under Different Names in Different
Locations Within the State
The Committee has received an inquiry from a law firm
practicing under the name "A, B, C, D & E" which would like to
merge and form a separate firm with a sole practitioner in another
part of the State to be known as "A & X" or "A, B & X." Well-
established in its geographical area, the inquiring firm does not
wish to change its name. Nor does it wish to add the sole
practitioner's name as it believes the firm name is already too
long and would become unwieldy. However, because of his
reputation, the firm believes it advisable that the sole
practitioner's name be included in the name of the newly formed
Consequently, the inquiring firm is considering forming a
second firm for the limited purpose of advancing the sole
practitioner's name. The new firm would be owned in its entirety
by and share a commonality of membership with the inquiring firm.
All members of the inquiring firm would be listed on both firms'
letterheads. The name of the newly formed firm would incorporate
the name(s) of one or more, but not all, of the inquiring firm's
principal partners and that of the sole practitioner.
Pursuant to RPC 7.5(a),
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. [Emphasis supplied].
In addition, RPC 7.1 states, among other things, that "[a] lawyer
shall not make false or misleading communications about the lawyer
or the lawyer's services."
It should initially be pointed out that RPC 7.5(a) concerns
the name, not names, under which a lawyer or law firm may practice.
The inference is clear that only one name is permissible.
The inquiring firm's formation of a second firm for the
limited purpose of advancing the sole practitioner's name
circumvents the rule. The newly formed firm would be owned in its
entirety by the inquiring firm. It would in no way function as a
separate, distinct, autonomous firm. Rather, it would be but an
appendage or satellite office of the parent firm. Moreover, all of
the members of the original firm would be members of the newly
formed firm and listed as such on its letterhead. Therefore, these
lawyers and the inquiring firm would be practicing under more than
one name, which is prohibited by RPC 7.5(a).
The proposed arrangement would also potentially be misleading
to members of the general public. It is the potential for
misleading the public through the use of multiple or different
names in the state which RPC 7.5(a) seeks to address and which use
of the two names here might engender. The potential to mislead
would arise, in some instances, from the belief that there are two
separate law firms engaged in the practice of law located in and
sensitive to the concerns of their respective communities and
clients. In fact, there is but one firm with a primary and
satellite office. In the perception of the public, if not the bar,
real or potential conflicts, under the circumstances, might occur
but tend to be obscured.
For the above reasons, we hold that the inquiring firm may not
engage in the practice of law under more than one name.
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