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Advisory opinion addresses identifying non-lawyer employees

Law firm letterhead and websites may list the names of non-lawyer employees if their status is clearly identified, according to a Supreme Court of Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline advisory opinion.

Opinion 2012-2 departs from a previous advisory opinion issued by the board, so Advisory Opinion 89-16 is withdrawn.

The board’s 1989 opinion did not discuss law firms communicating with clients and the public via their websites. The opinion did, however, find that the inclusion of non-lawyers on letterhead was prohibited, but their inclusion on business cards was proper.

In revisiting its 23-year-old advice, the board considered Rules 7.1 and 7.5(a) of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct and the standard that “law firm letterhead and websites cannot be false or misleading, or contain a non-verifiable communication about a lawyer or the lawyer’s services.”

The board reiterated that firm business cards may identify non-lawyer employees.

Read the complete text of the opinion.

Advisory Opinions of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline are informal, nonbinding opinions in response to prospective or hypothetical questions regarding the application of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio, the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Judiciary, the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct, and the Attorney’s Oath of Office.

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