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01/02-01

 

Abstract 01/02-01

Summary of Facts Provided

A firm was established naming only one attorney. That attorney is getting married and after her marriage will be using her married name, not the name used by the firm. She will be listed on the firm letterhead using both her maiden and married names. The members of the firm, and the named attorney, want to continue using the original firm name.

Issues and Conclusions

Does the firm have to change its name given the named attorney's marriage and discontinued use of her maiden name? No. The Committee concluded that the firm can continue to use its name, without change, without violating Rule 7.5 of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct.

Rule 7.5 prohibits a lawyer from practicing in a firm whose name contains "names other than those of one or more of the lawyers in the firm . . .." However, the Rule makes an exception and allows firms to use "the name . . . of (a) deceased or retired member of the firm or of a predecessor firm in a continuing line of succession." The Comment to Rule 7.5 indicates that the purpose of the Rule is to ensure the public is aware of the nature of the business and makeup of the firm. While trade names are also prohibited by the Rules, a firm may use the name of a deceased partner because it has "proven to be a useful means of identification." Rule 7.5(b).

In this instance the attorney's discontinued use of the name which has historically identified the firm does not present a likelihood that the public will be confused as to the firm's makeup or nature of its business, particularly given the fact that the named attorney will use a combination of her maiden and married names on the firm's letterhead. The original firm named has become this firm's "persona" and continued use of it despite the named attorney's name change does not violate Rule 7.5.