Legal Ethics

Lawyers May Use a Different Name Socially or When Writing Novels, Ethics Opinion Says


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Lawyers can have more than one identity, according to an Arizona ethics opinion.

Lawyers may use a different name outside their law practice, despite an ethics rule barring false or misleading communications, according to the opinion by the State Bar of Arizona.

The ethics opinion considered two possibilities, according to Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services. In the first, a lawyer wants to use a pseudonym to write murder mysteries. In the second, a lawyer wants to practice law under her maiden name—the name that is on bar records—but use her husband’s name for social or personal purposes.

The lawyers may use a different name in such situations, as long as there is no fraudulent or improper motive, the opinion says. For nonlegal activities, a lawyer may “adopt any name by which the lawyer chooses to be known.”

For their law practice, however, lawyers should not use a name that is materially different from the one on bar records, the opinion says. The different name could confuse clients, who would have trouble researching the lawyer’s disciplinary history, license status or malpractice coverage.

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