Opinion 94-26
(November 1994)

You have contacted the Committee regarding a propose advertisement. You indicate you have attorneys with substantial experience in product liability cases, and would like to limit you advertising to those types of case. You are considering using the trade name "Product Liability Associates"in your commercial rather than your length firm name. You would like to know whether there are any ethical problems, particularly in light of the new advertising rules, with advertising under your proposed trade name assuming that all other aspects of the commercial itself are in keeping with the advertising Rules.

The Committee notes that it has not been provided with the text of the proposed advertisement, and thus cannot specifically opine on it. However, your attention is drawn to your need to comply with all the advertising Rules that are contained in Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct 7.1 through 7.7.

Your use of the trade name "Product Liability Associates" is permitted under Rule 7.5a. You should of course be sure to meet all the legal requirements of doing business under a fictitious name within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Rule 7.2(k) provides that:

A lawyer shall not, directly or indirectly, advertise that the lawyer or his or her law firm will only accept or has a practice limited to, particular types of cases unless the lawyer or his or her law firm handles, as a principal part of his, her or its practice, all aspects of the cases so advertised from intake through trial. If a lawyer or law firm advertises for a particular type of case that the lawyer or law firm ordinarily does not handle from intake through trial, that fact must be disclosed. A lawyer or law firm shall not advertise as a pretext to refer cases obtained from advertising to other lawyers.

The Committee is of the opinion that use of the trade name "Product Liability Associates" indirectly advertises that your firm has a practice limited to product liability cases, and that as such product liability matters must form a principal part of your practice. With this comes the requirement that you ordinarily handle product liability cases from intake through trial as required by Rule 7.2k. It should be noted, that even if your trade name did not indirectly advertise that your firm has a limited practice, that your advertisement specifically for product liability cases would require that you handle these cases from intake through trial, unless you specifically disclosed otherwise in the advertisement.

Finally, if you use a trade name, you must use it for all purposes, not just for your advertising and fee agreements. To advertise under a trade name, yet to use the firm name for other purposes is misleading under Rule 7.la. You may, if you wish to continue to use your firm name, include it with the trade name in all documents generated by your office as well as in any advertisements you place.

The Philadelphia Bar Association's Professional Guidance Committee provides, upon request, advice for lawyers facing or anticipating facing ethical dilemmas. Advice is based on the consideration of the facts of the particular inquirer's situation and the Rules of Professional Conduct as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Committee's opinions are advisory only and are based upon the facts set forth. The opinions are not binding upon the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. They carry only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.