NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATIONProfessional
Ethics Committee Opinion
Opinion #2 - 11/06/1964
Topic: Firm Name. Deceased Partner.
Digest: Not improper to continue use of deceased partner's name in
firm, so long as not contrary to law or custom, even though other
partners' names may change.
Canon: Former Canon 33
I will appreciate it if you will refer the following question to our
Legal Ethics Committee.
J. Smith and J. Jones practiced for many years under the partnership
name of Smith & Jones. Smith, the senior partner, died. A year after
Smith died, Jones and White formed a partnership and now practice under
the firm name of Smith, Jones & White. White was never associated
with the firm while Smith was alive. Does this violate our code of
Canon 33 of the Canons of Professional Ethics provides "the continued
use of the name of a deceased or former partner when permissible by
local custom is not unethical, but care should be taken that no
imposition or deception is practiced through this use".
In its Opinion No. 67, the Committee on Professional Ethics of
New York County Lawyers' Association, stated that "there is no
impropriety in the continued use by surviving or continuing members of a
legal co-partnership of a firm name which contains the name of a
deceased or retiring partner, provided the provisions
of the Partner ship Law (if applicable) are complied with, and
provided further that there are no special circumstances, such as the
disbarment of the retiring partner or his elevation to the Bench, which
would make such a course improper".
The same views have been expressed by the Committee on Professional
Ethics and Grievances of the American Bar Association (A.B.A. Opinion
No. 6) prior to the adoption of Canon 33, and in 1933 A.B.A. Opinion 97
after the adoption of the Canon.
In New York, the name of a law firm does not necessarily identify the
individual members of the firm, and there would appear to be no
impropriety in the use of the name Smith, Jones & White even though
White was not associated with the firm during Smith's lifetime.