Attorney Chris McDonough, Esq. recently co-authored an article featured in the New York Law Journal describing the Appellate Division departments’ amendments to Rule 7.5 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct. What had previously been titled, “Professional Notices, Letterheads and Signs" is now "Professional Notices, Letterheads and Names."
Significantly, last year’s amendments to the body of the rule concern how attorneys and law firms may present themselves to the public. These entities are now permitted to practice under trade names and use domain names containing trade name elements to help make the profession more commercially competitive. After all, law is a business.
There is one condition to this amendment, however. Lawyers and law firms cannot use false, deceptive, or misleading firm names and domain names. For instance, McDonough writes, a private practice law firm is deceptive or misleading if its name implies a connection with the following:
- A government agency
- A deceased or retired lawyer who was not a former member of the firm in a continuing line of succession
- A lawyer not associated with the firm or a predecessor firm
- A nonlawyer
- A public or charitable legal services organization
Lawyers and law firms should be mindful of other significant amendments to the rule. Specifically, the following acts are considered false, deceptive, or misleading:
- Lawyers holding themselves out as practicing together in one firm if they are not a “firm” as defined in Rule 1.0(h)
- Using the name of a lawyer who is holding a public office in the name of a law firm, or is in communications on the firm’s behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm
- Lawyers holding themselves out as being counsel, associates, or other affiliates of a law firm if that is not a fact, or holding themselves out as partners, counsel, or associates if they only share offices
- Law firms claiming to be affiliated with other law firms when that is not a fact
- Lawyers or law firms using a name, trade name, domain name, or other designation that includes words such as “Legal Services,” “Legal Assistance,” or “Legal Aid,” unless the lawyer or law firm is a bona fide legal assistance organization
This list is not comprehensive of all amendments to the rule. To learn more, click here to access NYLJ article “’BestLawyersEver.com: NY Relaxes Law Firm Use of trade Names,” co-authored by Chris McDonough.
McDonough & McDonough is a New York disciplinary defense firm that represents and guides attorneys, law students, and law firms facing disciplinary and grievance actions, suspension and disbarment, and other related matters. If you have any questions about the amendments above or need to speak with us about your situation, call (516) 900-9042!