Professional Guidelines

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

The Virginia State Bar

Professional Guidelines

Rule 7.5

Lawyer and Firm Names And Letterheads

(a) A lawyer shall not use a name, firm name, letterhead, or other professional designation that violates Rule 7.1. A trade name may be used by a lawyer in private practice if it does not imply a connection with a government agency or with a public or charitable legal services organization and is not otherwise in violation of Rule 7.1.

(b) A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name or other professional designation in each jurisdiction, but identification of the lawyers in an office of the firm shall indicate the jurisdictions in which they are licensed to practice if they are not licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the office is located.

(c) The name of a lawyer holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.

(d) Lawyers may state or imply that they practice in a partnership or other organization only when that is the fact.


[1] A firm may be designated by the names of all or some of its members, by the names of deceased members where there has been a continuing succession in the firm’s identity or by a trade name such as the “ABC Legal Clinic.”  A lawyer or law firm may also be designated by a distinctive website address or comparable professional designation.  Although the Supreme Court of the United States has held that legislation may prohibit the use of trade names in professional practice, use of such names in law practice is acceptable so long as it is not misleading.  If a private firm uses a trade name that includes a geographical name such as “Springfield Legal Clinic,” an express disclaimer that it is not a public legal aid agency may be required to avoid a misleading implication.  It may be observed that any firm name including the name of a retired or deceased partner is, strictly speaking, a trade name.  The use of such names to designate law firms has proven a useful means of identification.  However, it is misleading to use the name of a lawyer not associated with the firm or a predecessor of the firm, or the name of a nonlawyer.

[2] With regard to paragraph (d), lawyers sharing office facilities, but who are not in fact partners associated with each other in a law firm, may not denominate themselves as, for example, "Smith and Jones," for that title suggests that they are practicing law together in a firm.

[3] Lawyers should practice using the official name under which they are licensed or seek an appropriate and legal change of name from the Supreme Court of Virginia.  The lawyer’s use of a name other than the lawyer’s name on record with the Virginia State Bar may be a misleading communication about the lawyer’s services to the public in violation of Rule 7.1.


The amendments effective July 1, 2013, rewrote the Rule and commentary.


Updated: June 26, 2013