The Florida Bar
A law firm is not required to distinguish on its letterhead between firm partners and firm associates, or between stockholders and employee attorneys in a professional association.
March 28, 1978
March 28, 1978
CPR: DR 2-102(A)(4)
Opinions: ABA Informal C-770, 1100
Vice Chairman Richman stated the opinion of the committee:
The Committee is asked whether a law firm must distinguish on its letterhead between members of the firm and associates of the firm. The Committee assumes for purposes of this inquiry that the question of distinction in a partnership is between partners and associates of the firm, and in a professional association is between stockholders and attorney employees who are not stockholders of the professional association.
The Committee unanimously answers the inquiry in the negative. There is no express Code provision that would require such a distinction. The only reason to require it would be if the distinction were necessary to avoid misleading the public. Many years of local practice and custom in the State of Florida have indicated no apparent need for such a distinction. As stated in ABA Informal Opinion C-770, and followed in ABA Informal Opinion 1100:
... under our Opinion 106 ... and Informal Decision C-555, it would be improper to include in the partnership name the names of associates who are not partners, as this would tend to mislead. A different situation exists, however, in regard to the listing of names on the letterhead. The purpose of such a listing is merely to indicate who are available to perform legal services on behalf of the firm, whether as a partner or associate. The liability of the firm as an entity and of the partners for the proper performance of those services is the same in either case, and so it is unimportant to distinguish between partners and associates for this purpose.
The custom of other jurisdictions such as New York in which a distinction is commonly made in law firm letterheads has not been followed in Florida and is not mandated by the Code, although it certainly may be done at the option of the firm. See DR2-102(A)(4).