The Florida Bar
PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OF THE FLORIDA BAR
August 11, 1972
August 11, 1972
A Florida law firm may not include on its shingle or letterhead the name of a lawyer who is not admitted in Florida even with disclosure of the non-admitted status when the arrangement between the lawyer and the firm does not constitute a true interstate partnership or a true “of counsel” relationship.
CPR: DR 2-102
Opinions: 65-24, 65-53, 66-64, 67-7, 70-35, 70-36, 70-55; ABA Formal 316
Committeeman Kittleson stated the opinion of the committee:
A Florida firm of lawyers asks how it may ethically advertise an affiliation between the firm and a New York patent lawyer, not admitted to practice in Florida, when the New York lawyer will not be a member or associate of the Florida firm, but will occupy space in the Florida firm's offices and will contribute appropriately to the rent and office expenses. The New York lawyer is a member of a New York law firm, and will continue to practice law as a member of the New York firm. The Florida firm's motive for the affiliation is the opportunity for obtaining referrals from the New York lawyer and the New York firm with respect to matters falling outside the patent specialty. The Florida firm seeks especially to list on its letterhead the New York lawyer's name as “Of Counsel,” accompanied by a disclosure of his non-Florida admitted status. There is no suggestion that the arrangement would constitute a true interstate partnership as discussed in American Bar Association Opinion 316 (1967) and Florida Opinion 70-55, and as recognized by DR 2-102(D).
On the facts stated, the Florida firm cannot, on its letterhead or shingle, properly include among the names of the lawyers the name of the New York lawyer. Except with respect to true interstate partnerships (to which special considerations apply), a Florida firm should not list as one of its lawyers a lawyer who is not admitted to practice in Florida, even with disclosure of the non-admitted status. Florida Opinions 70-35 [since withdrawn], 67-7 [since withdrawn], 65-53 [since withdrawn] and 65-24 [since withdrawn]. Moreover, even if a lawyer is admitted to practice in Florida, his name cannot properly be included in a Florida firm's letterhead, shingle or law listing when he is not a member, partner or associate of the firm, unless he is “Of Counsel,” as that term has been sanctioned by custom. See DR 2-102(A)(4). The term “Of Counsel” is hardly one of precision, but as used on letterheads it normally designates a semi-retired lawyer who was formerly a regular member or associate of the firm. It does not embrace the affiliation presented in this inquiry. See Florida Opinions 70-36 [since withdrawn] and 66-64 [since withdrawn]. And this is clearly so when the lawyer in question is not admitted to practice in Florida. Florida Opinion 69-30 [since withdrawn]. Mere arrangements for sharing office space, or for mutual referrals of clients or work, do not create a relationship that may be properly advertised on a law firm's letterhead and professional notices. Henry S. Drinker said in his book, Legal Ethics, “A lawyer's stationery should not be used to advertise his connections with lawyers in other places or to bring their names before his correspondents.”