Under the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, “lawyers may state or imply that they practice in a partnership or other organization only when that is the fact.” Rule 7.5(d). Simply put, lawyers who are not partners are not able to hold themselves out as partners. This has serious implications for attorneys operating out of the same virtual space with other attorneys. If a client reasonably believes that attorneys are practicing together, all attorneys may be held liable for the torts of their “neighboring” attorneys.
It’s easy for solo practitioners to avoid violation of the rule since they usually maintain their own phone number, email address, business cards, etc. Firms without solo practitioners should maintain the same type autonomy. FirmVO offers meeting space, workspace, and provides services for a multitude of firms out of one office. In utilizing FirmVO, it might be tempting to refer to firms that use our services as associates or colleagues. However, taking advantage of FirmVO gives the impression that your firm has exponential resources and the legal expertise to handle a variety of legal matters, so there’s no need to lean on other firms.
The requirement of disclosure of a firm’s virtual status, of a bona fide office, or address in the state, limits how firms hold themselves out to the public. Maintaining strict autonomy can eliminate confusion by potential clients and existing clients, and mitigate liability caused by such confusion. When all else fails, use your firm’s uniqueness to maintain its individual identity.
For more information regarding providing information about your legal services, visit the ABA’s Rule 7 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and your local jurisdiction’s rules.