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The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org
PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OF THE FLORIDA BAR

OPINION 64-20
May 5, 1964

It is improper to use the name of a lawyer who has become a judge in a firm name. Although it is improper to include a deceased partner's name in the firm unless there is sufficient continuity or connection, if such continuity exists his name may be listed on the letterhead with appropriate designation showing he is deceased.

Canon: 33

Chairman Smith stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar states that he has been practicing law since 1952 with A, under the firm name A & B. Prior to that time his partner practiced law with his father, the late A, Senior, before election of the latter to a public office under the name of A & A. The name of A, Senior, was carried on the firm letterhead with appropriate notations to show he was deceased, but that name was not part of the firm name. A has now been appointed to the bench and the lawyers have dissolved their partnership. Our opinion is sought as to the propriety of continuing to practice under the firm name, A & B.

It is the unanimous opinion of this Committee that it would be improper under the circumstances to continue practice under such name. Canon 33 provides that when a member of a firm becomes a judge, and is precluded from the practice of law, his name should not be continued in the firm name. Thus, it is necessary to eliminate the name of A from the firm name. Since neither the inquiring lawyer nor any present member of his firm was a partner of A, Senior, and since the latter has been dead over 18 years, the Committee feels there is not sufficient continuity or connection between him and the present firm to justify the use of the name in the firm.

A majority of the Committee is of the opinion that it would be proper to continue to list the name of A, Senior, on the letterhead of the new firm, with appropriate designation showing he is deceased. Further, it would appear proper, if he so elects, to show continuity through the years by stating the firm name. For example:

A, Senior (dates)
A & A (dates)

A & B (dates)

The problem with which he is concerned is discussed at length in Drinker, Legal Ethics, page 206 et seq. Stress there is made upon the fact that firm names must be factual and not misleading. Mention is also made that a deceased partner's name may be continued in a firm name if justified by local custom. We do not know if there is an established custom in the area in question, but the Committee feels that, if so, the custom would not justify the firm name now proposed.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]