RULE 7.5: FIRM NAMES AND LETTERHEADS

(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates Rule 7.1. A trade name may be used by a lawyer in private practice if it does not imply a connection with a government agency or with a public or charitable legal services organization and is not otherwise in violation of Rule 7.1.

(b) A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name or other professional designation in each jurisdiction, but identification of the lawyers or LLLTs in an office of the firm shall indicate the jurisdictional limitations on those not licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the office is located.

(c) The name of a lawyer or LLLT holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer or LLLT is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.

(d) Lawyers may state or imply that they practice in a partnership or other organization only when that is a fact.

[Originally effective September 1, 1985; amended effective September 1, 2006; April 14, 2015.]

Comment

[1] [Washington revision] A firm may be designated by the names of all or some of its members, by the names of deceased members where there has been a continuing succession in the firm's identity or by a trade name such as the "ABC Legal Clinic." A lawyer or law firm may also be designated by a distinctive website address or comparable professional designation. 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. If a private firm uses a trade name that includes a geographical name such as "Springfield Legal Clinic," an express disclaimer that it is a public legal aid agency may be required to avoid a misleading implication. 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 or LLLT not associated with the firm or a predecessor of the firm, or the name of an individual who is neither a lawyer nor an LLLT.

[2] [Washington revision] With regard to paragraph (d), lawyers or LLLTs sharing office facilities, but who are not in fact associated with each other in a law firm, may not denominate themselves as, for example, "Smith and Jones," for that title suggests that they are practicing law together in a firm.

Additional Washington Comment (3-4)

[3] When lawyers and LLLTs are associated with each other in a law firm, the firm may be designated using the name of a member LLLT if the name is not otherwise in violation of rule 7.1, this Rule, or LLLT RPC 7.5. See also Washington Comment [4] to this Rule. [Comment [3] adopted effective April 14, 2015.]

[4] Lawyers or LLTs practicing out of the same office who are not partners, shareholders of a professional corporation, or members of a professional limited liability company or partnership may not join their names together. Lawyers or LLLTs who are not 1) partners, shareholders of a professional corporation, or members of a professional limited liability company or partnership, or 2) employees of a sole proprietorship, partnership, professional corporation, or members of a professional limited liability company or partnership or other organization, or 3) in the relationship of being "Of Counsel" to a sole proprietorship, partnership, professional corporation, or members of a professional limited liability company or partnership or other organization, must have separate letterheads, cards and pleading paper, and must sign their names individually at the end of all pleadings and correspondence and not in conjunction with the names of other lawyers or LLLTs. (The provisions of this Comment were taken from former Washington RPC 7.5(d).) [Comment [4], renumbered and formerly Comment [3], amended effective April 14, 2015.]

[Comments adopted effective July 2, 1996; September 1, 2006.]

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