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RULE 19-307.5. FIRM NAMES AND LETTERHEADS (7.5)

West's Annotated Code of MarylandMaryland Rules

West's Annotated Code of Maryland
Maryland Rules
Title 19. Attorneys
Chapter 300. Maryland Attorneys' Rules of Professional Conduct
Information About Legal Services
MD Rules Attorneys, Rule 19-307.5
RULE 19-307.5. FIRM NAMES AND LETTERHEADS (7.5)
(a) An attorney shall not use a firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates Rule 19-307.1 (7.1). A trade name may be used by an attorney in private practice if it does not imply a connection with a government agency or with a public or charitable legal services organization and is not otherwise in violation of Rule 19-307.1 (7.1).
(b) A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name in each jurisdiction, but identification of the attorneys in an office of the firm shall indicate the jurisdictional limitations on those not licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the office is located.
(c) The name of an attorney holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the attorney is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.
(d) Attorneys may state or imply that they practice in a partnership or other organization only when that is the fact.
COMMENT
[1] A firm may be designated by the names of all or some of its members, by the names of deceased or retired members where there has been a continuing succession in the firm's identity or by a trade name such as the “ABC Legal Clinic.” A firm may not be designated by the names of non-attorneys. See Rule 19-305.4 (5.4). Although the United States Supreme Court has held that legislation may prohibit the use of trade names in professional practice, use of such names in law practice is acceptable so long as it is not misleading. It may be observed that any firm name including the name of a deceased partner is, strictly speaking, a trade name. The use of such names to designate law firms has proven a useful means of identification. However, it is misleading to use the name of an attorney not associated with the firm or a predecessor of the firm, or the name of a non-attorney.
[2] An attorney in private practice may not practice under a name which implies any connection with the government or any agency of the federal government, any state or any political subdivision, or with a public or charitable legal services organization. This is to prevent a situation where non-attorneys might conclude that they are dealing with an agency established or sanctioned by the government, or one funded by either the government or public contributions and thus charging lower fees. The use of any of the following ordinarily would violate this Rule:
(1) The proper name of a government unit, whether or not identified with the type of unit. Thus, a name could be the basis of a disciplinary proceeding if it included the designation “Annapolis” or “City of Annapolis,” “Baltimore,” or “Baltimore County,” “Maryland,” or “Maryland State” (which could be a violation as a confusing although mistaken reference to the state or under Comment [3]).
(2) The generic name of any form of government unit found in the same area where the firm practices, e.g. national, state, county, or municipal.
(3) The name of or a reference to a college, university, or other institution of higher learning, regardless of whether it has a law school, unless the provider of legal higher learning. For example, the names “Georgetown Legal Clinic (or “Law Office,” etc.)” and “U.B. Legal Clinic (or “Law Office,” etc.)” could both violate this Rule if used by unaffiliated organizations.
(4) The words “public,” “government,” “civic,” “legal aid,” “community,” “neighborhood,” or other words of similar import suggesting that the legal services offered are at least in part publicly funded. Although names such as “Neighborhood Legal Clinic of John Doe” might otherwise appear unobjectionable, the terms “legal aid,” “community” and “neighborhood” have become so associated with public or charitable legal services organizations as to form the basis of disciplinary proceedings.
[3] Firm names which include geographical names which are not also government units, or adjectives merely suggesting the context of the practice (e.g., “urban,” “rural”) ordinarily would not violate Rule 19-307.5 (7.5). The acceptability of the use of a proper or generic name of a government unit when coupled with an adjective or further description (beyond mere reference to the provision of legal services) should be judged by the general policy underlying Rule 19-307.5 (7.5), and any doubt regarding the misleading connotations of a name may be resolved against use of the name.
[4] With regard to section (d) of this Rule, attorneys sharing office facilities, but who are not in fact partners, may not denominate themselves as, for example, “Smith and Jones,” for that title suggests partnership in the practice of law.
Model Rules Comparison: This Rule substantially retains existing Maryland language and does not adopt Ethics 2000 Amendments to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, with the exception of changes to Comment [1].

Credits

[Adopted June 6, 2016, eff. July 1, 2016.]
MD R Attorneys, Rule 19-307.5, MD R ATTORNEYS Rule 19-307.5
Current with amendments received through September 15, 2018.
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