It is important to practice under your real name
August 15, 2005 Regular News It is important to practice under your real name It is important to practice under your real name Lori S. Holcomb Bar UPL Counsel While it may be true that a rose by any other name is still a rose, an attorney practicing under a name other than as admitted is a rule violation.Rule 1-3.3 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar requires each member of The Florida Bar to designate an official Bar name and mandates that “the official Bar name of each member of The Florida Bar shall be used in the member’s practice of law.”How is your official Bar name designated? It is the name that you use with the Florida Board of Bar Examiners when applying to become a member of The Florida Bar. How can you find out what your official Bar name is? Look at the certificate you got from the Supreme Court of Florida when you became licensed or at the card you got from The Florida Bar with your Bar number on it. Can’t find those? You can find your records on the Bar’s Web site, floridabar.org. Just click on Find a Lawyer and put in your Bar number. Or you can call the Bar’s Membership Records Department (850-561-5832) and give them your Bar number, and they can tell you how your name is listed with The Florida Bar.What does it mean that you shall practice under that name? Just what is says. If you are licensed as Cynthia R. Jones, you can’t practice as Cynthia C. Jones or Cindy Jones. If you are licensed as Robert Smith-Barnes, you can’t practice as Robert Barnes or Bob Smith-Barnes or Bob Barnes. If you are licensed as Cruella D. Ville, you can’t practice as C. D. Ville. Whatever name you are licensed under must be the name that appears on business cards, letterhead, office doors, pleadings, the telephone book, and any other place your name appears.Why is this a problem? Besides the fact that the rules require it, when your clients or potential clients call for information on you and your name is put in the system, your records will not come up. The caller is then transferred to the Unlicensed Practice of Law Department because you, or your name, appears to be practicing law without a license. This could result in action by The Florida Bar. At the very least, you’ll get a call or letter asking about your status. Not only are you opening yourself up to a possible letter from The Florida Bar, you are missing out on a source for new clients. You are listed on the Bar’s Web site and in the directory edition of the Bar Journal under your record name. If you are practicing under a different name, you decrease the chance that potential clients will be able to find you. So when cousin Bill tells his friend Jim to call Cindy Jones, Jim won’t be able to find you.Okay, you’ve decided after all of these years as practicing as C.D. Ville you want to change your record Bar name to C.D. Ville. How do you change it? Rule 1-3.3 states that the change can only be made “upon request to and approval” of the Supreme Court. How do you do that? According to the Supreme Court’s Web site (www.florida supremecourt.org), you send a letter to the clerk’s office requesting that your name be changed on the roll of attorneys. You should include your old name, your new name, and your Bar number. You should also include a self-addressed stamped envelope for return of the order approving the change. The same procedure applies if you have a change in last name due to marriage or divorce.So, it really boils down to be or not to be, for Bar purposes anyway. I once heard that change is good for the soul. In this case, it’s good for your business as well.