USE OF DECEASED PARTNER'S NAME ON LETTERHEADSIt is proper for a firm to continue to use the name of a deceased partner in its firm name and/or to show the name on its letterhead with suitable indication that such partner is deceased, if the use of the name does not tend to work any deception or imposition. The use of the name of a deceased partner should be discontinued whenever its continued use might be deceptive or misleading.
Code Of Professional Responsibility: DR 2-102(A)(4); EC 2-11.
C, a named partner in the law firm of A, B, C & D is deceased. The firm wishes to carry on under the firm name of A, B & D, but also wishes to include C's name in the list on their letterhead of all the members of the firm, with dates to the side of C's name to indicate the years he practiced with the firm.
Disciplinary Rule 2-102(A)(4) provides, in relevant part:
"A letterhead of a law firm may also give the names of members and associates, and names and dates relating to deceased and retired members."
Ethical Consideration 2-11 provides:
"For many years some law firms have used a firm name retaining one or more names of deceased or retired partners and such practice is not improper if the firm is a bona fide successor of a firm in which the deceased or retired person was a member, if the use of the name is authorized by law or by contract, and if the public is not misled thereby."
The question in this opinion is very similar to that decided in Texas Opinion 287 (1964). This opinion overrules Opinion 287 only to the extent that Opinion 287 and former Canon 30 required that local custom (the custom in the general geographical area where the firm was located) was to be determinative in deciding the propriety of using a deceased partner's name in the firm name. The Code of Professional Responsibility expressly excluded the "local custom" language of former Canon 30 in DR 2-102(A)(4).
Thus, it is proper to use a deceased partner's name in the firm name and/or to show the deceased partner's name on the firm's letterhead with suitable indication that such partner is now deceased. The State Bar of Texas use of dates to the side of the person's name is an accepted method of indicating that the partner is deceased or retired. (See Opinion 287).