NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATIONCommittee on
Opinion #382 - 03/27/1975
Digest: Announcement that a law firm is 'successor' to a lawyer who
has retired from the practice of law to assume the position of a judge
Code: Canon 9; EC 2-9; 4-6; DR 2-101(A), (B)
May a law firm publish an announcement that the law firm is the
'successor' to a lawyer who has retired from practice upon his
election as a judge?
An announcement which purports to inform the public that a law firm
assumed the practice of a judge violates the canons of ethics in that it
would involve distribution by the lawyer of material to clients and
prospective clients which would constitute a form of advertising clearly
proscribed by the Code. DR 2-101(A) and (B).
In addition apparent purpose of the announcement would be to indicate
the relationship of the law firm to the judge and would be indirect
solicitation of legal business in violation of the ban against such
conduct. EC 2-9. The mere appearance of such impropriety should be
avoided. Canon 9. It should be noted that those clients for whom the law
firm has already received substitutions on behalf of the predecessor
counsel need not receive any such announcement and that the announcement
to any past clients of the retiring lawyer would be in the nature of
advertising and prohibited by the canons.
No valid purpose can be advanced for listing the fact that the law
firm is the successor to the retiring judge's practice other than to
advertise either their availability to the former clients of the now
sitting judge or in the alternative to notify all former clients of the
now sitting judge of their 'relationship" to the judge who now sits on
a court within the county in which the firm practices law. See also N.Y.
State 164 (1970); N.Y. State 284 (1973).
The particular proposed announcement words 'successor to the firm
of' despite restricted circulation to clients and former clients of the
judge constituted solicitation and contravention of the canons. See N.Y.
City 735 (1949) which provides that it is improper for one lawyer to
identify himself in an announcement as 'successor to the practice of'
a deceased lawyer.
See N.Y. City 803(1955) and EC 4-6 as to appropriate procedures to be
followed by a lawyer retiring from the practice of law as to present
clients and the disposition of their files.