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End-of-life notice: American Legal Ethics Library

As of March 1, 2013, the Legal Information Institute is no longer maintaining the information in the American Legal Ethics Library. It is no longer possible for us to maintain it at a level of completeness and accuracy given its staffing needs. It is very possible that we will revive it at a future time. At this point, it is in need of a complete technological renovation and reworking of the "correspondent firm" model which successfully sustained it for many years.

Many people have contributed time and effort to the project over the years, and we would like to thank them. In particular, Roger Cramton and Peter Martin not only conceived ALEL but gave much of their own labor to it. We are also grateful to Brad Wendel for his editorial contributions, to Brian Toohey and all at Jones Day for their efforts, and to all of our correspondents and contributors. Thank you.

We regret any inconvenience.

Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.

Maryland Lawyer's Rules of Professional Conduct

Comment - Rule 7.5

[1] A firm may be designated by the names of all or some of its members, by the names of deceased or retired members where there has been a continuing succession in the firm's identity or by a trade name such as the "ABC Legal Clinic." Although the United States Supreme Court has held that legislation may prohibit the use of trade names in professional practice, use of such names in law practice is acceptable so long as it is not misleading. It may be observed that any firm name including the name of a deceased partner is, strictly speaking, a trade name. The use of such names to designate law firms has proven a useful means of identification. However, it is misleading to use the name of a lawyer not associated with the firm or a predecessor of the firm, or the name of a nonlawyer.

[2] A lawyer in private practice may not practice under a name which implies any connection with the government or any agency of the federal government, any state or any political subdivision, or with a public or charitable legal services organization. This is to prevent a situation where nonlawyers might conclude that they are dealing with an agency established or sanctioned by the government, or one funded by either the government or public contributions and thus charging lower fees. The use of any of the following ordinarily would violate this Rule:

1. The proper name of a government unit, whether or not identified with the type of unit. Thus, a name could be the basis of a disciplinary proceeding if it included the designation "Annapolis" or "City of Annapolis," "Baltimore," or "Baltimore County," "Maryland," or "Maryland State" (which could be a violation as a confusing although mistaken reference to the state or under the third application of this instruction below).

2. The generic name of any form of government unit found in the same area where the firm practices, e.g. national, state, county, or municipal.

3. The name of or a reference to a college, university, or other institution of higher learning, regardless of whether it has a law school, unless the provider of legal higher learning. For example, the names "Georgetown Legal Clinic (or "Law Office," etc.)" and "U.B. Legal Clinic (or "Law Office," etc.)" could both violate this Rule if used by unaffiliated organizations.

4. The words "public," "government," "civic," "legal aid," "community," "neighborhood," or other words of similar import suggesting that the legal services offered are at least in part publicly funded. Although names such as "Neighborhood Legal Clinic of John Doe" might otherwise appear unobjectionable, the terms "legal aid," "community" and "neighborhood" have become so associated with public or charitable legal services organizations as to form the basis of disciplinary proceedings.

[3] Firm names which include geographical names which are not also government units, or adjectives merely suggesting the context of the practice (e.g., "urban," "rural") ordinarily would not violate Rule 7.5. The acceptability of the use of a proper or generic name of a government unit when coupled with an adjective or further description (beyond mere reference to the provision of legal services) should be judged by the general policy underlying Rule 7.5, and any doubt regarding the misleading connotations of a name may be resolved against use of the name.

[4] With regard to paragraph (d), lawyers sharing office facilities, but who are not in fact partners, may not denominate themselves as, for example, "Smith and Jones," for that title suggests partnership in the practice of law.

Model Rules Comparison

This Rule substantially retains existing Maryland language and does not adopt Ethics 2000 Amendments to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, with the exception of changes to Comment [1].