Legal Ethics Opinion No. 1369

Advertising and Solicitation--Law Firms: Abbreviating Name of 
Professional Corporation

You have advised that your firm, comprised of approximately 45
attorneys practicing throughout the Commonwealth, currently uses
its full legal name which consists of the named shareholders
followed by the phrase "a Professional Corporation" to denote the
nature of its legal entity.

You have asked that the committee consider the propriety of the
firm's deleting the use of the phrase "a Professional
Corporation," including instead the phrase "Attorneys at Law." 
You indicate that the appropriate fictitious name certificate
would be filed should the use of the new denomination be proper.

The appropriate and controlling rules are DR 2-l02(A) which
prohibits the use of any professional notice or device if it
includes a statement or claim that is false, fraudulent,
misleading or deceptive, and DR 2-l02(C) which prohibits a lawyer
from holding himself out as having a partnership with one or more
other lawyers unless they are in fact partners.  Further guidance
is provided in Ethical Considerations 2-l3 and 2-l5 which
provide, respectively, that the use of a name which could mislead
laypersons concerning the identity, responsibility, and status of
those practicing under a particular name is improper, and that a
lawyer should be scrupulous in the representation of his
professional status.

The committee is also cognizant of the legal authority for the
use of the firm's name without the designation indicating that
the entity is a professional corporation.  The reconciliation of
the two pertinent Code sections [l3.l-544.l and l3.l-630A] is,
however, a legal question beyond the purview of this committee.

The committee believes that the general spirit of DR 2-l02(C)
would not be damaged by the use of the new version of the firm
name since the individuals named in the firm designation are or
were during their lifetimes actually associated in the practice
of law.  See LEO #325.  Nevertheless, the committee is of the
opinion that the complete elimination of any reference to the
corporate status of the firm would be improper under DR 2-l02(A)
since it has the potential to mislead laypersons into erroneous
conclusions regarding the personal liability of the shareholders
and associates affiliated with the law firm.  Although the
committee has earlier opined that it is not per se improper for a
professional corporation to practice law under a fictitious name,
the committee is presently of the opinion that the permissible
use of a fictitious name does not obviate the need for the firm
to indicate the nature of its corporate identity in order to
avoid misleading the general public.  See LEO #935, 937.  The
committee believes that your firm's proposed use of the phrase
"Attorneys at Law" would be insufficient to provide such

     The Committee finds no ethical impropriety in your firm's
use of the phrase "a professional legal corporation" following
the firm name.  (See Legal Ethics Opinion No. 1242).  Whether
such a phrase is legally permissible under any applicable
Virginia Code sections governing professional corporations,
however, raises a legal question beyond the purview of the

Committee Opinion
July 24, 1990

Committee Reconsideration
November 15, 1990