OPINION 426
September 1985

Question Presented

Is it permissible under the Texas Code of Professional Responsibility for a law firm to place on its outside sign (which includes the firm name, the designation "law offices" and the names of attorneys) the name of non-lawyer private investigator, identified as "investigator," who devotes more than thirty hours per week of his working time to the law firm on and independent contract basis?

Discussion

A law firm's outside sign constitutes publicity and advertising subject to the requirements of Disciplinary Rule ("DR") 2-101. DR 2-101(A) provides that "[a] lawyer shall not make, on behalf of himself, his partner, associate, or any other lawyer, any false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services." Under DR 2-101(A)(1), a communication is false and misleading if it "[c]ontains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading . . . ."

In the opinion of the Committee, the inclusion on the law firm's outside sign of the name of a private investigator labeled "investigator" who works with a law firm on an independent contract basis would violate DR 2-101(A) in two respects. First, the inclusion of the name of the investigator with the names of lawyers would create the substantial probability that some readers of the sign would be misled into thinking that the person labeled "investigator" was also a licensed attorney who performed specialized investigatory functions as a lawyer in the law firm. Second, the sign would be materially misleading to a reader in conveying the impression that the operations of the "investigator" were activities supervised by lawyers of the law firm rather than being the activities of a non-lawyer independent contractor.

Conclusion

It is not permissible under the Texas Code of Professional Responsibility for a law firm to include on an outdoor sign for the law firm the name of an investigator who is an independent contractor and is not a lawyer. (9-0)