In this matter, the law firm of A, B, C & D, a professional corporation, has four equal shareholders. Lawyer B would like to withdraw as a shareholder, but continue for a period to practice with the firm as Of Counsel. The Inquirer has asked whether, during that period, the firm may continue to call itself A, B, C & D.
Continued use of lawyer B's name in the name of the firm after he ceases to be a shareholder could be misleading and could violate Rule 7.5(d) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 7.5 (d) provides that lawyers may not imply that they practice in a partnership or other organization unless that is the fact. The comment to the Rule indicates that lawyers who are not, in fact, partners may not include their names in a firm name, for the title suggests partnership.
Rule 7.5 (a) recognizes an exception only in the case of a firm that continues to include the name of a deceased or retired member of a predecessor firm in a continuing line of succession. This does not apply to this situation, because lawyer B is not retired and will continue to practice with the firm as Of Counsel.
The Committee has concluded that the firm should not continue to use the name A, B, C & D when B is no longer a shareholder. However, the firm letterhead may indicate the former firm name, in parentheses, under the new firm name.