July 7, 2008
Ethics Of Name Change
An attorney who has practiced under her true name for two decades wished to legally change her name for personal reasons and retain the former name for her law practice. She has established a reputation under the present name. May she do so?
Yes, according to an ethics opinion issued by the Washington State Bar Association, so long as the use of the former name does not mislead the public:
Under the above facts, the inquiring lawyer is not prohibited from continuing to use her current name in her professional capacity after obtaining a legal name change for personal reasons, provided it does not mislead the public and further provided she releases to the WSBA, within 10 days of her name change, all information sufficient to comply with APR 13(d), as hereinafter explained.
The inquiring lawyer also asks the committee to define the phrase “avoid misleading the public” and what is meant by complying with APR 13(d), under these facts. “Misleading the public” is fact dependent, and the comment following RPC 7.1 provides some assistance. The requirements necessary to comply with APR 13(d) are set forth in the rule, but, given the lawyer’s desire to retain her current name in her professional capacity she should also inform the WSBA of this intent so it will continue to list the name under which she practices as her “public” name, while also noting her legal name in its records.
Hard for me to see how the public might be misled by the use of the former name. (Mike Frisch)
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Even my cousin Vinny Gambini did not have to practice under his real name, Jerry Callo.
Posted by: Alan Childress | Jul 7, 2008 2:20:18 PM