Rule 7.5 Firm Names and Letterheads

Editor’s Note:  This rule, and the comments to it, were deleted by Court Order dated September 1, 2021. 

(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead, or other professional designation that violates RPC 7.1. A trade name may be used by a lawyer 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 RPC 7.1.

(b) A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name or other professional designation in each jurisdiction, but identification of the lawyers 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 a lawyer 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 lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.

(d) Lawyers may state or imply that they practice in a partnership or other organization only when that is the fact.


[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 lawyer or law firm may also be designated by a distinctive website address or comparable professional designation. 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. If a private firm uses a trade name that includes a geographical name such as “Springfield Legal Clinic,” an express disclaimer that it is not a public legal aid agency may be required to avoid a misleading implication. It may be observed that any firm name including the name of a deceased or retired 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 a lawyer not associated with the firm or a predecessor of the firm, or the name of a nonlawyer.

[2] Paragraph (c) does not require a change in a law firm’s name or letterhead when a member of the firm interrupts his or her practice to serve, for example, as an elected member of the Tennessee General Assembly so long as the lawyer reasonably expects to resume active and regular practice with the firm at the end of the legislative session. Such a hiatus from practice is not for a substantial period of time. If, however, a lawyer were to curtail his or her practice and enter public service for a longer or indefinite period of time, the lawyer’s firm would have to alter its name and letterhead.

[3] With regard to paragraph (d), lawyers sharing office facilities, but who are not in fact associated with each other in a law firm, may not denominate themselves as, for example, “Smith and Jones,” for that title suggests that they are practicing law together in a firm.

Definitional Cross-References

“Firm” and “law firm” See RPC 1.0(c)

“Substantial” See RPC 1.0(l)


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