NYSBA Ethics Opinion 58

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Professional Ethics Committee Opinion

Opinion #58 – 05/23/1967 (10-67)

Modified by 233
Topic: Firm Name, Attorney Named to Public Office
Digest: Lawyer named to public office may keep his name in former firm so long as not misleading to clients and others, and firm does not appear before that body
Canon: Former Canon 33

QUESTION

Question has been raised as to whether an attorney named to public office in New York City is prohibited from keeping his name in that of his former law firm and on its stationery.  The attorney has represented that his firm has not and will not appear in any matter “remotely related” to the City Department with which he will serve, that his firm “will not appear before any agency of the city or prosecute any claim against the city in the courts” and that as to those few firm matters presently pending in the court against the city he would “waive any claim for fees, and the firm name will not continue as counsel on said matters.”

OPINION

The Committee is of the opinion that, assuming the effectuation of the representations made by the attorney, it would not be professionally improper to keep his name in that of his former law firm and on its stationery.  However, it is to be emphasized that an attorney may not permit the use of his name in that of his former firm for the purpose of misleading his former clients or others into the belief that he is still active in respect to matters handled professionally by the firm.  Canon 33 of the Canons of Professional Ethics; Opinion 97 of the Opinions of the Committee on Professional Ethics of the American Bar Association; Opinion 651 of the Opinions of the Committee on Professional Ethics of The Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Accordingly, if the attorney’s official position requires his full time it should be indicated where his individual name appears on his firm letterhead, either that he is retired from the firm or that he is on “leave of absence”.  Informal Decision 620 of the Standing Committee on Professional Ethics of the American Bar Association.If the attorney’s firm hereafter does represent a client in a matter with the city or have other official contacts with city officers the possibilities of conflict of interest and of valid or invalid assumptions of improper influence detrimental to the Bar would make it incumbent for the attorney to withdraw his name immediately from that of the firm and from its stationery.  (See Opinion 332 of the Committee on Professional Ethics of The Assn. of the Bar of the City of New York.)   Furthermore, as this Opinion 332 indicates, the practice of retaining the name of an attorney in the firm name and on its stationery where the attorney has entered government service is not to be encouraged, even if it does not specifically violate the Canons of Ethics.

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