The Florida Bar

December 26, 1974

It is permissible for an interstate partnership with an office in Florida to use its firm name in this state even though none of the lawyers listed in the firm name are admitted in Florida, but the letterhead should indicate which members of the firm are admitted in Florida.

[Note: See, The Florida Bar v. Savitt, 363 So.2d 559 (Fla. 1978), which discusses the requirements of a bona fide interstate partnership.]

CPR: DR 2-102(D)
Opinion: 65-15

Vice Chairman Daniels stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar contemplates formation of an interstate partnership with a New York law firm and requests guidance regarding operations of the interstate partnership in Florida.

The formation of interstate partnerships is sanctioned by DR 2-102(D), which provides:

A partnership shall not be formed or continued between or among lawyers licensed in different jurisdictions unless all enumerations of the members and associates of the firm on its letterhead and in other permissible listings make clear the jurisdictional limitations on those members and associates of the firm not licensed to practice in all listed jurisdictions; however, the same firm name may be used in each jurisdiction.

In view of the underscored language above, the New York firm name may be used in Florida although none of the lawyers in such firm name are admitted in Florida. Former opinions to the contrary, such as 65-15 [since withdrawn], have been overruled by the subsequent amendment to the Code of Professional Responsibility underscored above. However, the Committee reaffirms the following language from former Opinion 65-15:

. . . it is not improper for a Florida lawyer to be a member of an interstate law firm which maintains offices both in Florida and elsewhere. The partnership, however, must be a full, bona fide partnership in which the profits and losses of the several offices are actually shared according to the terms of the partnership agreement. It is improper to engage in such an arrangement if its true effect is merely to create an association whereby legal matters are referred from one office to another and fees are shared only with reference to the particular matters so referred.
* * *

. . . all attorneys who are members or associates of such firm must be “amenable to professional discipline” at the place where the partner or associate is actually engaged in practice and the partner or associate must be a member of the bar authorized to practice law at that place; and that the public and other lawyers must not in any way be misinformed or misled concerning the authority of any member of an interstate firm to practice in a particular jurisdiction. In the latter connection, if the name of a lawyer is listed on the letterhead of a Florida firm when that lawyer is not admitted to practice in Florida, then an affirmative statement must appear on the letterhead indicating that the lawyer is not authorized to practice in this state. Further, it is not proper to list the name of any attorney in a telephone directory, published and used in Florida, unless the attorney is admitted to practice in this state.

Under the contemplated interstate partnership, the partnership letterhead used in Florida will use the New York firm name at the top. On the left margin the letterhead will have a heading “Partners Admitted in Florida” and will thereafter list only the partners admitted in Florida. The Committee deems this an appropriate method to avoid misleading the public as it will indicate to the public that the lawyers in the firm name are not admitted in Florida. However, care should be exercised in the conduct of the firm's Florida practice to avoid any false impression that other partners are Florida lawyers.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]