SECTION 26. Definition of a law firm; choice of firm name. A law firm is any private office, partnership, or association, exclusively comprised of a lawyer or lawyers engaged to practice law, and who hold themselves out as such to the public.
In the choice of a firm name, no false, misleading, or assumed name shall be used. The continued use of the name of a deceased, incapacitated, or retired partner is permissible provided that the firm indicates in all its communications that said partner is deceased, incapacitated, or retired. (2023 Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability or CPRA)
A law firm – refers to “any private office, partnership, or association, exclusively comprised of a lawyer or lawyers engaged to practice law, and who hold themselves out as such to the public.” (CPRA, Section 26, Canon II)
Lawyers are prohibited from choosing a firm name that is false, misleading, or an assumed name.
So long as a law firm indicates in all its communications that a partner is deceased, incapacitated, or retired, the continued use of their names are permissible.
The use of a deceased partner’s name in a law firm’s name was allowed upon the effectivity of the Code of Professional Responsibility, with the requirement that “the firm indicates in all its communications that said partner is deceased.” (Kimteng v. Young, G.R. No. 210554, 05 August 2015)
The sign may be in the form of a cross.
Maintaining a disbarred lawyer’s name in the firm name is different from using a deceased partner’s name in the firm name. Canon 3, Rule 3.02 [of the old CPR allowed] the use of a deceased partner’s name as long as there is an indication that the partner is deceased. This ensures that the public is not misled. On the other hand, the retention of a disbarred lawyer’s name in the firm name may mislead the public into believing that the lawyer is still authorized to practice law. The use of the name of a person who is not authorized to practice law constitutes contempt of court. (Kimteng v. Young , supra.)
Use of foreign law firm’s name is prohibited since foreign lawyers are not authorized to practice law in the Philippines. (Dacanay v. Baker & McKenzie, A.C. No. 2131, 10 May 1985)
The respondent-lawyer admitted that the letterhead of Cristal-Tenorio Law Office listed Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr., Gerardo A. Panghulan, and Maricris D. Battung as senior partners. She admitted that the first two are not lawyers but paralegals. They are listed in the letterhead of her law office as senior partners because they have investments in her law office. That is a blatant misrepresentation. (Cambaliza v. Cristal-Tenorio, A.C. No. 6290, 14 July 2004)
Courts may presume that a law firm that represented itself as such, with at least two named partners and more than one associate is composed of at least three lawyers. It is not the duty of the courts to inquire during the progress of a case whether the partnership continues to exist lawfully, or the partners are still alive or its associates are still connected with the firm. (Bernardo v. CA, G.R. No. 106153, 14 July 1997)
The death of a law firm partner did not extinguish the lawyer-client relationship between the firm and the client. (Kimteng v. Young , supra.)