Opinion #34. Listing Office Manager on Letterhead

Issued by the Professional Ethics Commission

Date Issued: January 17, 1983

The Commission has received an inquiry from a law firm regarding the propriety of listing on its letterhead the name of its non‑lawyer office manager (together with the title “office manager”).

Issues of what may ethically appear on a lawyer’s letterhead have customarily been answered by reference to the rules on advertising. Originally, advertising rules were principally restrictive but with enumerated exceptions. See, e.g., DR 2‑102(A). The adoption of the Maine Bar Rules in 1978 significantly changed this approach by recognizing “the right to advertise in general and [forbidding] only those practices that would be regarded as improper in any context,”[1] namely using statements which are either false, fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive. Rule 3.9(a). Those terms are defined by Rule 3.9(b).

We find nothing within the advertising rule (or the other ethics rules) which specifically prohibits the listing of non‑lawyers on a lawyer’s letterhead. Such a practice is therefore prohibited only if it can be said to be false, fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive. We do not believe that the listing of the name of an office manager on a letterhead, clearly so designated (assuming it is a truthful listing) would cause fraud or mislead or deceive the public. We reach this conclusion in part because the public would not falsely expect to receive any special benefit or assume that the law firm had any special expertise merely by virtue of having an office manager in its office.

[1] Reporter’s Notes to Maine Bar Rule 3.9(a)

Enduring Ethics Opinion