Bar Counsel Notes: Advertising
Lawyer (L) is considering having another lawyer (M) use vacant office space at his building. The two attorneys plan to share an administrative assistant, but they will have two distinct and separate law practices. Even so, L would like to have a joint office sign that reads: "L & M Attorneys at Law." Would that joint sign be permitted under the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct?
No. As described under these facts, such a firm description appears to be in violation of M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.0(c) (Definitions and Terminology: "Firm" or "law firm;" 7.1 (Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services); and 7.5(a)(d) (Firm Names and Letterheads). That is, as presented this phraseology would provide a public false description concerning the actual formulation of L's and M's new separate law offices. They are in the same office area, but in fact they are not a partnership or any other combined form of law office. Since they will be separate law firms, their separate sign descriptions must be consistent and accurate in each public description thereof. See Advisory Opinion #14 (concerning formerly applicable M. Bar R. 3.9(b)(2)); See also Advisory Opinion #86.
*Disclaimer: The Informal Ethics Advisory Notes from Bar Counsel are intended as outreach by the office of Bar Counsel for the use and benefit of the Maine bar. These scenarios are drawn from actual telephone calls received by the attorneys in the office of Bar Counsel in the course of providing informal advice on the Code of Professional Responsibility, known as Bar Counsel's "Ethics Hotline." The particular advice in each case is limited with reference to the particular factual situation related by the inquiring attorney who must be inquiring about his or her own conduct or the conduct of a member of his or her firm. We do not provide any advice to one attorney about the conduct of another attorney unless they are members of the same law firm. In the telephone opinions, we usually explore and discuss additional factual variables. However, I have attempted to pare down these factual scenarios to make the email newsletter more readable and useful in a general sense. Obviously, that creates the risk that slight variations on the facts, to a learned reader, may give rise to a different analysis and conclusion.