The Florida Bar
February 28, 1977
In order to avoid the possibility of misleading the public, a law firm should not list on its letterhead the name of any lawyer who is not an employee of the law firm in some capacity (member, associate or of counsel).

CPR: Canon 2; EC 2-13; DR 2-102(A)(4)
Opinion: ABA Formal 310
Case: In Re Sussman and Tanner , 241 Ore. 246, 405 P.2d 355 (1965).

Chairman Sullivan stated the opinion of the committee:

A professional association uses a letterhead reading "John Doe, P.A." Below, on the left side, are the address and telephone number. Below, on the right side, just opposite the address, are the names of two members of The Florida Bar. It is their status relative to the professional association that prompts this inquiry.

The sole stockholder of that professional association advises that he refers legal matters to the two lawyers continuously, as distinguished from occasionally. They rent space from the professional association, but maintain their own law practices. We are asked if the professional association may properly include the names of the two lawyers on its letterhead.

The Committee is of the opinion that it may not and that the practice is prohibited by DR 2-102(A)(4).

That provision allows only the inclusion on a letterhead of members of a law firm and associates and an "Of Counsel" designation not applicable here. That provision does not define "associates," but EC 2-13 does state what an associate is not:

In order to avoid the possibility of misleading persons with whom he deals, a lawyer should be scrupulous in the representation of his professional status. He should not hold himself out as being a partner or associate of a law firm if he is not one in fact, and thus should not hold himself out as a partner or associate if he only shares offices with another lawyer.

EC 2-13 was derived in part from ABA Opinion 310 and in part from In re Sussman and Tanner, 241 Ore. 246, 248, 405 P.2d 355, 356 (1965). Opinion 310 stated that it was proper to list as associates lawyers who were employed by a law firm but who did not share responsibility or liability for acts of the firm but improper for two lawyers who shared office space and some of the costs but not responsibility and liability of each other to describe themselves as associates. In re Sussman and Tanner stated that the word "associates" had acquired a special significance in connection with the practice of law and that to use it on a letterhead to refer to other than lawyer-employees would be misleading.

We believe that "associates" as used in Canon 2 refers to lawyer-employees of another lawyer or of a law firm or to non-stockholder lawyer-employees of a professional association but not to the relationship described here.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]