Monday, February 21, 2011

How not to practice law: advertise you have "associates" when, in fact, you don't

The Legal Profession blog is reporting on a new case involving a practice I have discussed before in this blog: the use of the phrase "and Associates" as part of a firm name when the firm has only one lawyer. There are a number of decisions out there that find this to be misleading and, thus, in violation of the rules of conduct.

The most recent case on this comes from Virginia where a three-judge court has imposed a suspension of 30 days followed by a year of probation. The case is available here. The attorney in question advertised his practice as himself "& Associates" when in fact he had a solo practice. To make matters worse, he also had a web page in which a non-attorney was presented as a member of the firm and in which he listed non-existent firm practice groups.

Obviously, this case involved more than the casual use of the phrase "and associates." This was a deliberate attempt to diceive the public. Given those circumstances, and the fact that there were other instances of conduct that violated other rules of conduct, I would have imposed a tougher sanction.

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