A law firm cannot use an abbreviated version of its full name in ads when it uses the full name on its letterhead, business cards, and other ads, according to the Bar’s Standing Committee on Advertising.
The committee rejected an appeal from a law firm last month after the firm sought to use in an ad only the first two names of the five names in the firm’s full title. The firm wanted to use the shortened version in an internet banner ad.
At issue is Bar Rule 4-7.12(a)(1), which requires that lawyer and law firm ads include “the name of at least one lawyer [or] the law firm . . . responsible for the content of the advertisement.”
Attorney Tim Chinaris, representing the law firm, said it had registered a DBA — a form registering the shorter name with the government — and that is how the firm is generally known. He likened it to a person using a nickname.
But committee members questioned whether they had any discretion on the issue.
“The way I’m looking at this, the rule is clear on its face. It says the firm name; it doesn’t say the firm nickname; it doesn’t say the firm’s shorter name,” said committee member Bud Gardner, a former public member of the Board of Governors. “I don’t think as a committee we have the prerogative to interpret that in any different way.”
Bar Ethics and Advertising Counsel Elizabeth Tarbert said the firm used its full name on other ads, including internet banner ads as well as on its letterhead and business cards. Committee members also noted that several law firms in recent years have formally shortened their titles to include only one or two names, presumably to improve marketing.
The committee voted 4-1, with one abstention, to uphold a Bar staff opinion that the firm could not use the shortened name on the banner ad. The firm is appealing the committee’s decision to the Bar Board of Governors.
This article originally appeared in the September 25, 2016 edition of The Florida Bar News
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