Many Regulators Have Traded In Outdated Rules on Law Firm Trade Names – Yet Most Lawyers Don’t Realize It
Post update 4/21/2021 based on comment from Will Hornsby noting that all trade name bans have been or are in the process of being eliminated.
LegalZoom. HelloDivorce. HelloPreNup.
One reason that we as lawyers know that these companies aren’t law firms is because they operate under trade names – which many jurisdictions traditionally prohibited lawyers from using. Of course, the public doesn’t know anything about the ban on trade names, so they just assume that most lawyers lack the business savvy or creativity to use any name for their business other than their own. Thank goodness for regulators who protect the public from dangers they never knew existed.
In any event, it looks like stupid ethics rules banning trade names were no match for the First Amendment. Once challenged in court by HQ Law, a self-described law tech company, the rules simply crumbled in New York, Georgia, Texas, Nebraska and Ohio and other states similarly sued. [Source: Bloomberg, Law Practice Today]. Trouble is, even though trade name rules have changed, no one sent that memo to lawyers. Many of the Facebook groups that I frequent are populated with knowledgeable attorneys – yet many continue to insist that they can’t do trade names which isn’t true. It doesn’t help that even excellent online guides on starting a firm like this one by Clio contain inaccurate information.
So lawyers, you read it here first: before you simply assume that you can’t use a trade name, check your ethics rules because they may have changed.
For guidance in evaluating the pros and cons of using your own name versus a trade name, click the video below:
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