These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
 
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  Topic: 55 - Firm Names and Letterhead
LEO NumTopicsSummaryDate
1380

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38-Fee Splitting

42-Payments to Solicit Recommendations

45-Law Firms - Miscellaneous

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

[WITHDRAWN 9/16] Although the Bar cannot determine if two affiliated professional corporations are a single entity for purposes of the ethics rules, a determination that they are two separate entities might mean that they are violating: the fee-splitting rules; the prohibition on paying compensation to recommend employment; the ban on using the name of a lawyer who has left the firm and is engaged in business elsewhere.11/30/1990
1341

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13-Marketing - Miscellaneous

53-Office Sharing with Non-Lawyers

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

57-In-House Lawyers

71-Representing Corporations

A firm's letterhead may include a retired former partner's name as long as the former partner is accurately characterized. Corporate counsel must disclose the name of the corporate employer on letterhead and business cards. If a lawyer operates a private law practice out of a company's office, there must be separate office space, separate sign, separate files and a separate telephone listing. 4/20/1990
0828

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41-Non-Virginia Lawyers

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A foreign citizen who is not licensed to practice law in the United States may not indicate on letterhead that the lawyer is a legal adviser to various countries, since it would tend to be misleading. [The new foreign legal consultant rule (Rule 1A:7) may permit this activity.]9/23/1986
1242

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm letterhead may not indicate that it is a partnership of professional corporations without revealing that they engage in the practice of law. 6/14/1989
0935

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm may call itself "Accident Adjustment Service, PC" or "Attorney's Accident Adjustment Service, PC." 6/11/1987
1706

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm may continue to use a deceased or retired partner's name in its title. Although declining to indicate whether a lawyer who has only been an independent contractor of a firm may continue to use the firm's name after all of the firm's partners retire (calling the question a "legal issue") the Bar refers to a Maryland LEO indicating that such use would be improper. As long as the lawyer was a "successor in interest" to the firm, the lawyer could continue to use a deceased partner's name in the firm name. Although sole practitioners may not use words like "group" or "associates" in their firm's names, using a deceased lawyer's name is acceptable as long as the firm's letterhead indicates that the other lawyer is deceased. 11/21/1997
1659

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45-Law Firms - Miscellaneous

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm may hire an associate who also maintains a separate law practice; the firm may include the associate's name on its letterhead but should disclose the associate's separate office address "to avoid the possibility of misleading the public regarding the associate's relationship with the law firm." 1/23/1996
0264

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm may indicate on its letterhead the jurisdiction limits of its lawyers. 12/3/1974
0851

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm may not continue to use a former partner's name on printed material once the former partner becomes a judge. 10/9/1986
0230

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51-Government Attorneys

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm may not indicate on its letterhead that one of its lawyers is a Commonwealth's Attorney. 9/27/1973
0970

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

59-Disbarred and Suspended Lawyers

A law firm may not pay a disbarred lawyer for work the lawyer performed before disbarment. A law firm may include a non-lawyer's name on its stationery as long as the stationery explains the non-lawyer's status. 9/30/1987
0589

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm may not use the name "Closing Company, PC" because it is misleading; the name "Closing Company, a Professional Law Corporation" would be proper. 7/5/1984
0277

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm may not use the name of a lawyer who has stopped practicing law and is now engaged in a business. 12/15/1975
0767

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28-Law Firm Staff

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm may pay legal assistants on a profit-sharing basis, and include legal assistants and other staff on the firm letterhead as long as they are properly identified. 1/17/1986
1376

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm may use the name of a retired partner as long as the retired partner practiced with the firm until retirement and is not practicing law elsewhere or taken a public office. 9/13/1990
1288

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm's letterhead may contain the name of a non-lawyer unless it would be misleading. 10/19/1989
0283

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm's letterhead may indicate that one of its lawyers is registered to practice before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. 6/23/1976
1143

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41-Non-Virginia Lawyers

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm's letterhead should indicate the jurisdictional limitations of any of the listed lawyers' practices. A non-Virginia lawyer may negotiate with a Virginia lawyer without engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. 10/26/1988
1704

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm's name may include the names of deceased partners. During the process of a firm dissolving, partners may operate under the old firm name "for the limited purpose of winding up its affairs" while simultaneously practicing under a firm name that includes some of the same names as the old firm. 9/12/1997
0206

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20-Government Official Conflicts

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law firm's name may not include the name of a lawyer/legislator who is not actively practicing in the firm. 5/28/1970
0469

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13-Marketing - Miscellaneous

45-Law Firms - Miscellaneous

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A law practice may indicate the absence of a partnership by using the term "affiliated law offices." 9/20/1982
0775

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13-Marketing - Miscellaneous

16-Lawyer's Personal Interests

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

85-Business Cards

A lawyer employed by an insurance carrier must make full disclosure of the employment status on business cards, letterheads, office signs and other public representations. 4/3/1986
0402

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A lawyer may not include on the lawyer's letterhead the chairmanship of a Virginia State Bar committee, since it could mislead the public as to the lawyer's status, ability or integrity. 1/20/1981
0193

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16-Lawyer's Personal Interests

20-Government Official Conflicts

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A lawyer may use firm letterhead in soliciting support for a public office that must be held by a lawyer.9/28/1965
1532

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13-Marketing - Miscellaneous

33-Office Sharing with Other Lawyers

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A lawyer may use the term "and associates" in describing the lawyer's practice if the lawyer employs an associate in a manner that is more than office-sharing. The lawyer may use the term "associates" in the plural only if the lawyer employs at least two lawyers. 5/11/1993
1275

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A lawyer may use the word "lawyer" in a non-profit corporation unless it is misleading 9/27/1989
1029

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13-Marketing - Miscellaneous

29-Advancing Fees and Costs

47-Lawyer Referral Services

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A lawyer referral service may not call itself "The Litigation Group" without explaining that it is not a law firm, and may not use the statement "no recovery -- no fee" because clients will be liable for costs even if they lose [explained in LEO 1750].2/1/1988
0321

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12-Withdrawing Lawyers (Including Non-Compete Issues)

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A lawyer selling a law practice may advise clients that they may retain the new lawyer or some other lawyer. The lawyer purchasing the law practice may not purchase clients' files or an interest in pending litigation, and may not use the selling lawyer's name in the letterhead. [Rule 1.17 permits the purchase or sale of a law firm's practice, including good will, under certain circumstances.]4/19/1979
0202

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

82-Advertising

A lawyer who holds a JD degree may use the title "Doctor." 11/13/1969
0858

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41-Non-Virginia Lawyers

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A multi-state law firm must indicate on its letterhead which lawyers are members of the Virginia State Bar and which are not, and may include a footnote indicating that the non-Virginia lawyers are admitted in other states. 11/10/1986
0762

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A multi-state law firm's letterhead which lists the firm's lawyers must state the lawyers' jurisdictional limits. 1/19/1986
1356

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16-Lawyer's Personal Interests

50-Lawyer-Owned Businesses

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A professional corporation may establish a subsidiary for collections practice, as long as there is disclosure to prospective clients, and nothing in the law firm's or new professional corporation's name was misleading. 1/22/1990
1108

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A professional corporation may not use the name of a former partner after the partner has withdrawn from the firm and is no longer practicing law. 7/12/1988
0937

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A professional corporation may practice law under a fictitious name. 6/11/1987
1554

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11-"Of Counsel" Relationship

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A retired lawyer may be listed as "of counsel" to a firm even though the retired lawyer is not actively practicing law, as long as the lawyer "remains associated with the firm and available for occasional consultations." The designation would be improper if the retired lawyer's association "was limited to a pure business affiliation" or to "either the development of business or the management of the firm's business activities." The Bar quoted earlier LEOs as indicating that the "of counsel" relationship "turns on the actual practice of law and is not satisfied by a mere business or financial relationship with the firm, a sporadic affiliation over time, or the status of a forwarder or receiver of legal business." 10/22/1993
1492

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13-Marketing - Miscellaneous

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A solo practitioner may not use the term "attorneys at law" in describing the lawyer's practice.10/19/1992
0325

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41-Non-Virginia Lawyers

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

A Virginia law firm and an out-of-state law firm may not use the same name and letterhead if they are not a partnership or share professional liability. 6/6/1979
0959

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

57-In-House Lawyers

An in-house lawyer's letterhead must indicate the employer's name. 9/3/1987
1285

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

As long as it is not intended to mislead the public, a law firm may retain its name even though two of the named partners marry and one wants to stop using her maiden name. 10/19/1989
1395

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

If a geographic area and a military installation have become commonly used, a law firm may use the names in the law firm name because it would not imply some special connection with the military installation. 1/14/1991
1026

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13-Marketing - Miscellaneous

41-Non-Virginia Lawyers

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

If a law firm lists different states where its lawyers are licensed, the names of the lawyers should be included. A statement indicating that the law firm "serves" three jurisdictions might give the erroneous impression that each lawyer is licensed in those jurisdictions. 2/1/1988
ABA-430

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54-Insurance Defense Lawyers

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

57-In-House Lawyers

Lawyers employed as staff employees of insurance companies may represent both the company and the insured in "full coverage cases" -- in which the insured's monetary exposure is within the coverage limits, and there is no dispute about coverage. The lawyers must keep in mind "the importance of undivided fidelity to the insured-client." The issue of separate attorney-client relationships with the insured and the company (or both) is a question of state law, but some states follow a "dual client" approach while others recognize that the lawyer represents only the insured. Most states allow staff counsel to represent insureds, but some states prohibit such representations as the unauthorized practice of law. Insurance companies' staff lawyers representing insureds must disclose to their insureds clients -- "at the earliest opportunity practicable" their "employment status and affiliation with the insurance company." Staff lawyers for an insurance company may use a traditional law firm name or a trade name, as long as they make the required disclosure to their insureds-clients.7/9/2003
1369

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13-Marketing - Miscellaneous

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

Lawyers practicing as a professional corporation must reveal the form of their association in communications to the public or clients. 11/15/1990
0853

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

No Opinion was issued with this number.10/9/1986
1034

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11-"Of Counsel" Relationship

19-Judge Conflicts

20-Government Official Conflicts

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

The Canons of Judicial Conduct govern the permissibility of a lawyer appearing before a judge who was formerly a partner in the law firm (reaffirming LEO 552). It is improper to list a Congressman (who is precluded from the practice of law) as "of counsel" to a law firm. 2/9/1988
1873

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12-Withdrawing Lawyers (Including Non-Compete Issues)

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

82-Advertising

The hypothetical law firm of "Smith & Jones, P.C.," need not immediately stop using the Internet domain name and URL "smithjones.com" after Smith withdraws from the P.C. An immediate termination would not serve "the interests of the public" or "the partners in the former firm who collectively built goodwill and created value associated with that firm name." The "appropriate way of explaining why smithjones.com is no longer the Smith & Jones website" is to place a notice on that website. Although the P.C. owns the former domain name, it may not indicate on the website that the Smith & Jones "has now become" the "Jones Law Office," because that implies that Smith is no longer practicing law. Similarly, any redirection of visitors to the smithjones.com website to the "joneslawoffice.com" website also requires additional information. Such redirection is appropriate only if the joneslawoffice.com website, or a page visable during the process of redirecting, "explains the change from Smith & Jones to Jones Law Office and that Smith continues to practice law in a different firm."3/20/2014
0326

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28-Law Firm Staff

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

The name of a legal assistant may appear on a law firm's outside door if the label properly identifies the person as a legal assistant. 6/19/1979
0660

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55-Firm Names and Letterhead

This opinion was rescinded 2/13/03. 2/4/1985

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn