Is it proper for an attorney who was once a well-known T.V. and radio personality, known in such business under an assumed name, to use the assumed name in the practice of law? Secondly, is it permissible for the attorney to practice law under his legal name and also state that he is also known as, thereafter stating his assumed name?
Opinion 324, written under the former canons, answers these two questions in the negative. Therefore, we must review this inquiry in light of the disciplinary rules and ethical considerations now governing the conduct of attorneys, and further in light of the rules concerning advertising. First, the committee is aware that the attorney is licensed under his real name with an assigned state bar number. He must sign his pleadings accordingly. Secondly, we see no reason to overrule Opinion 324. DR 2-102(A) provides: "A lawyer in private practice shall not practice under a trade name, a name that is misleading as to the identity of the lawyer or lawyers practicing under such name." EC 2-11 provides that "a lawyer shall practice only under a designation containing only his own name, the name of a lawyer employing him, the name of one or more of the lawyers practicing in a partnership, or the name of a professional legal corporation." Thus, the applicable disciplinary rules and ethical considerations prohibit practice under a trade name.
Further, Opinion 398 prohibits practice under a trade name which does not contain the name or names of the members of the firm. The rule, DR 2-102, provides "a lawyer in private practice shall not practice under a trade name." Thus, such a practice is not protected as commercial free speech. Although it is true that Opinion 398 appeared to concentrate mainly on whether a trade name would be misleading to the public, this committee is of the opinion that a trade name or assumed name should not be permitted. To the extent that the language of 398, providing that a lawyer or professional corporation may practice under any name that is not misleading as to the identity, responsibility or status of those practicing thereunder, or otherwise false, fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive, is in conflict with this opinion and DR 2-102(A) the same is hereby overruled.
The conduct inquired about would not be to the interest of the public and is prohibited by the present disciplinary rules and ethical considerations. Accordingly, the attorney should practice law under his legal name and not a pseudonym. (8-1 vote)