What's in a Name...and More
A nice review in the Bar Journal's monthly Loss Prevention column. Some key points for sole practitioners:
What's your name?
Me - a name I call myself. - "Do Re Mi"2
Let's start with your firm's name, which, like all communications about you and your services, must not be "false or misleading." RPC 7.1.
One of the easiest ways to create a false and misleading name (if for some reason you want to do that) is to imply partnership where it doesn't exist. RPC 7.5(d) states that "[l]awyers may state or imply that they practice in partnership or other organization only when that is the fact." Here are a few common scenarios.
Imaginary Partners. Sometimes it's lonely to be a solo. But don't yield to the temptation to add "imaginary friends" to your letterhead. If Linda Lonewolf is a sole practitioner, she may not call her firm "Linda Lonewolf & Associates" because the "Associates" don't exist...
Unjustified expectations. A communication is false or misleading if it "is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve." An ad stating "We'll get you a settlement - fast," by itself, suggests that the lawyer can do so in every case.
A former judge who joins a personal injury practice may not refer to herself as "Judge" in a business context, because this may lead to unjustified expectations about the results she can achieve for her clients. Note that it's fine for her to be called "Judge" in a social context. ISBA Ethics Op 92-10...
What do you do?
An Illinois lawyer may state that she "concentrates" or "limits" her practice of law to a particular area or areas of practice. She may also give other information about her practice "which a reasonable person might regard as relevant in determining whether to seek the services offered." RPC 7.4(a). And of course, this is also subject to the "false and misleading" test of RPC 7.1.