Legal Ethics

Solos Cautioned Against Tacking 'Associates' to Firm Name

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Solo practitioners who pump up their practices by using the word “associates” in their firm names may be running afoul of ethics rules, at least in Connecticut.

A report in the Connecticut Law Tribune equates such a practice to embellishing a resume.

The paper cites the case of Joseph Moniz, a Hartford solo who was the subject of a grievance complaint. When state legal ethics authorities looked into the complaint, they discovered that Moniz had used the name “Moniz & Associates” even though there weren’t any other attorneys employed at the firm.

The associates issue is popping up because of relatively new lawyer advertising rules that went into effect in July 2007.

The rules prompted one lawyer, Thomas Fahey, to change his letterhead from Fahey, Landolina & Associates to Fahey & Landolina, Attorneys LLC.

Another lawyer told the Tribune that he counts the paralegal in his office as an associate of the firm.

“We want clients to be able to count on the associates in the office just as they would the attorneys,” Benjamin Potok told the paper. “We’re holding ourselves out that this is a team effort.”

But that justification may not pass the smell test for Michael P. Bowler, bar counsel for the Judicial Branch. The Tribune noted that from his office’s perspective, “the word ‘associates’ carries the image of a lawyer in the context of a law firm. When you advertise you’re working in concert with other lawyers, you’re not making a truthful representation.”

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