Monday, March 15, 2010

What's In a Name? Choose Right & Win A Prize

Roses & Beer Koozies
Shakespeare once asked “what’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  In other words, would your loved one be just as happy with a bouquet of Valentine's Day roses if they were called "stink daisies." 

Like Shakespeare, I too know the importance of a name.  Imagine growing up with the name Adrian during the height of Rocky mania.   If I had a nickel for every "Yo Adrian, I did it for you, " I think I could have quietly retired from law practice.  I've actually had judges do Rocky impressions to me.  Side note: Is there a statute of limitations on the intentional infliction of emotional distress?  I may have to sue Sylvester Stallone. (You hear me Stallone?  I must break you).

Outside of my blogging efforts,  I also work for the venerable Connecticut law firm of  Podorowsky, Thompson & Baron.  As you can imagine, marketing the name can be rather difficult. How's a client supposed to refer someone to us when they can't even pronounce our name.  Go ahead.  Spell Podorowsky when calling information for the phone number.  Not only is Podorowsky hard to pronounce, it's tough to fit on a beer koozie.  I assume the beer koozie problem is why many prestigious firms are following the trend of shortening their names.  Firms likeWilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker now refer to themselves as Wilson Elser.  It's why the Day Barry & Howard /  Pitney Hardin merger goes by Day Pitney.  It's branding.  You need to be able to fit the firm's name on a beer koozie. But I digress....

A Self-Made Man May Prefer a Self-Made Name. Learned Hand 

While naming your law firm is not that difficult, serious thought should be placed on the effort. After all, the moniker will grace your letterhead for years to come.   Is it easy to remember?  Does it profess an air of dignity and professionalism?  If you have a partner, who's name is first.  May I suggest turning to the alphabet rather than using the rock-paper-scissor method?  This would help place your listing earlier in the yellow pages and website directories. 

In her book "The Ultimate Guide to Solo and Small Firm Success" attorney Renee Caggiano Berman brings up several valid points regarding this topic.  She uses the examples of "The Law Office of Jane Doe" versus "Doe Law Firm"  The latter conjures up visions of a more established professional firm.  She has a point.  What would strike more fear into the heart of an insurance adjuster "The  Law Office of Timmy Johnson" or "The Johnson Law Group."   There is also the growing trend of trademark names for law firms.  Here in the Nutmeg State, I have seen examples ranging from  "Advocates Law Firm® " to "Marlborough Legal Services". 

As our esteemed colleagues at Advocates Law Firm remind us, "make sure any name you choose--and its ".com" equivalent--will not infringe on some other name or you could end up in costly litigation and have to "rebrand" yourself if you lose the right to use that name".   

Of course, when selecting the name of your firm, make sure you check with local ethics rules.  In Connecticut, for example, rule 7.5(a) forbids the listing of inactive, silent or passive partners in the firm name and letterhead. (See In Caliendo v. Coassin, No. CV 94 0314956S, 1994 WL 613380 (Conn.Super. Oct. 25, 1994).   In  informal Opinion 87-16 (1987)  it was determined that a law firm trade name can include the name of partners who kicked the bucket.  Just make sure they are removed from the list of attorneys practicing on the firm's letterhead.  And in  Informal Opinion 95-22 (1995), the Committee determined that using the name ______ County Legal Services was prohibited by Rules 7.1 (1) and 7.5(a).  They felt such a geographically descriptive trade name could be misleading to Joe Six Pack. To rectify the situation, such firms would need to put out a disclaimer that they are not officially affiliated with a county or a publically sponsored legal aid office.

You may want to consider who you partner up with as well.  Try to stay away from attorneys named Shyster or Crook.  Here are a few unique law firm names, we came across:

Bicker & Bicker (A husband and wife association in Pennsylvania.  Please tell me that they practice divorce law.)

Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen (100 year old Virgina firm)

Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca Fischer, Gilbert-Lurie Stiffelman, Cook, Johnson Lande & Wolf LLP (the poor secretary in this LA Firm.  Imagine the billable hours just from writing out the name )

Low, Ball & Lynch (60 year old California Firm)

The Nice Law Firm might consider merging with the Guy Law Firm  Both can be found in Indiana

Weiner & Cox (MI law firm)

Payne and Fears (California & Las Vegas)

You may also enjoy these actual lawyer names. 
I am now faced with another naming dilemma.  I have been asked to pen a legal column for a local city paper.  Frankly, I'm having trouble coming up with a good name .  I now turn to you for help.  The column will basically focus on general practice issues.  Suggestions I have received are Baron on Law, the Law Baron, and Yo Adrian's Happy Fun Law Advice Extravaganza.  Please feel free to submit your own suggestions in the comment section or email me at  The winning selection will receive a $50 Amazon gift certificate and a complimentary copy of the "Ultimate Guide to Solo and Small Firm Success".

Editors note:  Speaking of names, Connecticut has a new football franchise.  The former NY Sentinels will be called the Hartford Colonials.


Janet P. Middletown said...

I like the Legal Corner or Baron on Law

Anonymous said...

The Barrister Baron

Southington Jack said...

Why not the nutmeg lawyer?

Sheldon said...


Anonymous said...

Actually, it is "Advocates Law Firm" and not "The Advocates Law Firm." And ® has been registered with the USPTO. So to add to your list of considerations when choosing a name: make sure any name you choose--and its ".com" equivalent--will not infringe on some other name or you could end up in costly litigation and have to "rebrand" yourself if you lose the right to use that name.

misha trotsky said...

OK - Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe

Just kidding, of course. I lifted that from NPR's "Car Talk." They also called themselves "Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers." They stole that from Frick and Frack, two comedians with the Ice Follies.

The Legal Eagle is taken. Recipe Corner is the wrong forum.

So I'm going to say "The Legal Corner." Because when people come to you, they literally are at a crossroads. And they don't know which way to turn. Seriously.

misha trotsky said...

Note to Janet: I'm seconding your suggestion, not hijacking.