Opinion 98-17
(October 1998)

You have asked whether use of the trade name, "Medical Malpractice Trial Attorneys, Inc." is permissible as a trade name for your law firm. Generally, in Pennsylvania use of trade names as well as other advertising (which includes business letterhead, announcements and business cards), is governed by Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct 7.1 through 7.7. Rule 7.5a allows the use of a trade name by a law firm, providing, "it does not imply a connection with a government, government agency or with a public or charitable legal services organization and is not otherwise in violation of Rule 7.1. Rule 7.1 provides that legal advertisements cannot be "false or misleading." The Committee also draws your attention to Rules 5.4d as well as 7.2 k.

Rule 5.4d provides in part, that "A lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a professional corporation or other form of association organized for profits, if:

(4) in the case of any form of association other than a professional corporation the organic law governing the internal affairs of the association provides the equity owners of the association with greater liability protection than is available to the shareholders of a professional corporation."

Rule 7.2k provides in part that:

"...if a lawyer or law firm advertises for a particular type of case that the lawyer or law firm ordinarily does not handle from intake through trial, that fact must be disclosed. A lawyer or law firm shall not advertise as a pretext to refer cases obtained from advertising to other lawyers."

The Committee is of the opinion that your proposed name is permissible and complies with the Rules of Professional Conduct as long as the limitation of liability is not greater than that permitted by Rule 5.4d(4), and provided the firm handles medical malpractice trials from intake through trial as required by Rule 7.2k.

CAVEAT: The foregoing opinion is advisory only and is based on the facts as set forth above. The opinion is not binding on the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any court. It carrier only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.

The Philadelphia Bar Association's Professional Guidance Committee provides, upon request, advice for lawyers facing or anticipating facing ethical dilemmas. Advice is based on the consideration of the facts of the particular inquirer's situation and the Rules of Professional Conduct as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Committee's opinions are advisory only and are based upon the facts set forth. The opinions are not binding upon the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. They carry only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.