The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 77-17

March 28, 1978
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
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.
Note: Lawyer advertising rules are now in Rules Regulating The Florida Bar 4-7.11
through 4-7.22.

DR 2-102(A)(4)
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 DR 2-102(A)(4).