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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 152

Adopted November 30, 1950

QUERY

Is it proper for a surviving partner to continue the use of a firm name which includes that of a deceased partner?

ANSWER

The continued use of the name of a deceased partner when permissible by local custom is not unethical in and of itself, but care should be taken that no imposition or deception is practiced through this use. Canon 33 American Bar Association as amended September 30, 1937. A necessary corollary to the foregoing statement is that if in a local community there is a custom whereby a firm name serves to identify the individual members of the firm so that the use of the firm name amounts to a representation that certain individuals are members of the firm, the continued use of the firm name might be misleading and result in deception. In such a case, continued use of the firm name would be improper. See opinion No. 6 American Bar Association rendered prior to the adoption of Canon No. 33 and its amendment.

In this connection, even where local custom permits continued use of such a firm name the surviving partner should be particularly careful to plainly disclose in all reasonable ways that the firm name is merely the name under which he is conducting business. Such steps should include indication on the firm stationery that one of the partners is deceased.