June 1964

PARTNERSHIP NAMES—DECEASED PARTNER'S NAME—DESCRIPTIVE USE—A firm may continue to use the name of a deceased partner in its firm name and to show the name on its letterhead with suitable indication that such partner is deceased, if the action is in accord with custom in the general geographical area and if the use of the name does not tend to work any deception or imposition. This use of the name of a deceased partner should be discontinued whenever its continued use might be deceptive or misleading.

Canon 30.


Three lawyers, Blackstone, Marshall and Pounds, for several years practiced law under the firm name, Blackstone, Marshall & Pounds. Shortly before the death of Blackstone, his interest in the firm assets was purchased by his two partners, and he consented to the continued use of the same firm name. After Blackstone's death, the same firm name was continued. The firm's letterhead also continued to list the names of the three lawyers, but following Blackstone's name, the years of his birth and death appeared parenthetically. The members of Blackstone's family did not object to the continued use of Blackstone's name in the firm name. Was it proper to use Blackstone's name in this manner, and if so, how long may this be done?


Canon 30 clearly permits the continued use of the name of a deceased or former partner if local custom permits and if no deception or imposition is practiced. "Local custom" should be considered as referring to the general geographical area, for in small towns with few lawyers there may well be no custom one way or the other. The use of dates, as has been done here, indicating that Blackstone is deceased seems proper for otherwise one might be misled into thinking he still was an active member of the firm. There is no set period of time during which this use of Blackstone's name may be continued; probably it would be misleading to continue use of the name after new partners have joined the firm (see A.B.A. Opinion 381A), and in any given fact situation when it appears that deception or imposition might result the use of the name should be discontinued. (9-0.)