VII. INFORMATION ABOUT LEGAL SERVICES
Rule 7.01. Firm Names and Letterheads
(a) 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, or a firm name containing names other than those of one or more of the lawyers in the firm, except that the names of a professional corporation, professional association, limited liability partner-ship, or professional limited liability company may contain 'T.C .,""P.J.L.," "L.L.P.," "P.L.L.C.," or similar symbols indicating the nature of the organization, and if otherwise lawful a firm may use as, or continue to include in, its name the name or names of one or more deceased or retired members of the firm or of a predecessor firm in a continuing line of succession. Nothing herein shall prohibit a married woman from practicing under her maiden name.
(b) A firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name in each jurisdiction, but identification of the lawyers in an office of that 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 occupying a judicial, legislative, or public executive or administrative position shall not be used in the name of a firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.
(d) A lawyer shall not hold himself or herself out as being a partner, shareholder, or associate with one or more other lawyers unless they are in fact partners, shareholders, or associates.
(e) A lawyer shall not advertise in the public or media or seek professional employment by written communication under a trade or fictitious name, except that a lawyer who practices under a trade name as authorized by paragraph (a) of this Rule may use that name in such advertisement or such written communication hut only if that name is the firm name that appears on the lawyer's letterhead, business cards, office sign, fee contracts, and with the lawyers signature on pleadings and other legal documents.
(f) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead, or other professional designation that violates Rule 7.02(a).
Comment - Rule 7.01
1. A lawyer or law firm may not practice law using a name that is misleading as to the identity of the lawyers practicing under such name, but the continued use of the name. of a deceased or retired member of the firm or of a predecessor firm is not considered to be misleading. Trade names are generally considered inherently misleading. Other types of firm names can be misleading as well, such- as a firm name that creates the appearance that lawyers are partners or employees of a single law firm when in fact they are merely associated for the purpose of sharing expenses. In such cases, the lawyers involved may not denominate themselves in any manner suggesting such an on-going professional relationship as, for example "Smith and Jones" or "Smith and Jones Associates" or "Smith and Associates." Such titles create the false impression that the lawyers named have assumed a joint professional responsibility for clients' legal affairs. See paragraph (d).
2. The practice of law firms having offices in more than one state is commonplace. Although it is not necessary that the name of an interstate firm include Texas lawyers, a letterhead including the name of any lawyer not licensed in Texas must indicate the lawyer is not licensed in Texas.
3. Paragraph (c) is designed to prevent the exploitation of a lawyer's public position for the benefit of the lawyers firm. Likewise, because it may be misleading under paragraph (a), a lawyer who occupies a judicial, legislative, or public executive or administrative position should not indicate that fact on a letterhead which identifies that person as an attorney in the private practice of law. However, a firm name any include the name of a public official who is actively and regularly practicing law with the firm. But see Rule 7.02(a)(4).
4. With certain limited exceptions, paragraph (a) forbids a lawyer from using a trade name or fictitious name. Paragraph (e) sets out this same prohibition with respect to advertising in public media or written communications seeking professional employment and contains additional restrictions on the use of trade names or fictitious names in those contexts. In a largely overlapping measure, paragraph (f) forbids the use of any such name or designation if it would amount to a "false misleading communication "under Rule 7.02(a).
A lawyer's letterhead is a "communication" within meaning of disciplinary rule providing that lawyer shall not make any false or misleading communication about his services. State Bar Texas v. Faubion, 821 S.W.2d 203 (App. 14 Dist 1991), error denied.
A lawyer who is a municipal judge should not use his law firm's letterhead to communicate with litigants in municipal court matters. Ethics Committee Opinion 451.
3. Retired members
Agreement entered into between retiring attorney and firm which bore his name, whereby attorney received periodic payments from firm in return for his agreement not to represent any current or former clients of firm, to assist firm in collection of accounts receivable, and not to take any action that would prevent firm from continuing to use attorney's name in the firm name, was not in violation of Disciplinary Rules. Ethics Committee Opinion 466.
4. Partnership status
Lawyers who share office space, represent to the public that the attorney is a member of a firm through the use of pleadings, business cards and letterheads, recognize vicarious liability for the other attorneys' professional acts, maintain an autonomous practice with independent bank and trust accounts, separately bill for services rendered, maintain their own clientele but seek advice from other members of the firm, pay a pro rata-share of the premium for a common professional malpractice insurance policy, and do not pool their income or share in the net profits, "hold out" to a reasonable prudent person the existence of a partnership without assuming joint professional responsibility for the clients' legal services and should disclaim partnership status pursuant to
Rule 7.04(d). Ethics Opinion 478 (June 1991).
8. Fees and costs
Attorney's letter of solicitation which mentioned fees but did not mention how amount of fee would be arrived at and whether client would be responsible for costs, violated Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, even though attorney's practice was to charge no legal fees or costs to his clients unless he won an award or settlement in connection with their case. Gonzalez v. State Bar of Texas, 904 S.W.2d 828 (App. 4 Dist. 1995), rehearing denied, error denied.