The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 72-29

August 11, 1972
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
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.

DR 2-102
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 Florida Opinions 70-35 [since withdrawn], 67-7 [since withdrawn], 65-53
[since withdrawn] and 65-24 [since withdrawn].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.”