Ethics Opinion

Opinion No. 74-3

March 1974

Summary: It is not permissible for an attorney who owns a building in which he and only one other attorney have their offices to name the building "Lawyers Center" or "Legal Center."

Facts: X, an attorney who has two associates practicing with him, owns the building in which his office is located. The only other attorney in the building is Y. Although X and Y are not associated with each other, they share certain facilities, including the secretarial staff, the library and the conference rooms. The only other tenants in the building are a real estate company, in which X has an interest, and an accountant who, although independent, handles X's corporate and tax accounts. The building is in a relatively large city. X has inquired as to whether he can name the building the "Lawyers Center" or "Legal Center."

Discussion: In Informal Decision No. C-441, the ABA Standing Committee on Professional Ethics decided that an attorney could call his building "Law Building" or "Lawyers Building" if the building was used by a "a number of lawyers." On the other hand, the opinion stated that if the building was occupied by one lawyer or law firm, the designation would be improper since it would constitute advertising on behalf of the lawyer or law firm whose office was in the building.
In the same opinion, the ABA Committee considered other aspects of the general problem of the building designations. It stated, for example, that a building may not be named the "X Law Building" nor may it be designated as the "County Law Building." In the committee's opinion, the former designation would clearly run afoul of the ban on advertising while the latter would be misleading inasmuch as it might be a representation that the building has some official character. The committee did state that a building may properly be named the "X Building" since such a name was simply a designation of ownership. We take this opportunity to state that in the area of building designations we agree with the principles enunciated by the ABA Committee.
The situation presently before us does not, we believe, meet the test set out in the ABA decision. The words "a number of lawyers" appearing in the decision refer, of course, to a number of independent practitioners. In this case, there is not a "number" of lawyers using the building. Also, the two attorneys whose offices are in the building are not totally independent. In these circumstances, we believe that the proposed designation would violate Disciplinary Rule DR 2-102(A).
Finally, we observe that the particular building under discussion is situated in a relatively large city where there are a number of lawyers practicing law. To permit the use of the word "Center" might, in our opinion, be misleading inasmuch as it might convey the impression that all or many lawyers in the city have their offices in this building.

Permission to publish granted by the Board of Delegates, 1974. As stated in the Rules of the Committee on Professional Ethics, this advice is that of a committee without official governmental status.