Ever wonder why there’s no “Wal-Mart Law Firm”?

For you non-lawyers out there, you’ve probably wondered why all law firms seem to be named something like “Smith & Jones, P.C.” or “Peterson Law Firm.” What’s with all these last names? Are lawyers that vain? That uncreative?

Yes and yes. But that’s not the end of the story.

Lawyers are held back to an extent by the rules of professional conduct. Iowa Rule 32.7.5(e), for example, does not allow an attorney to practice under a trade name. Hence, no “Wal-Mart Law,” no “Quality Divorce Law” or “The Injury Specialists.” This has always seemed a little wierd, as doctors and other professionals can name their practice “Neurology Associates” or “Orthopedic Specialists.”

Another thing that strikes people when reading the yellow pages is that nearly all law firm ads look alike – and in a very boring way. How many ads just say “Workers Compensation” in bold letters or something like that? Well, one reason for this, again, is the professional conduct rules. I can advertise the “Best Carpet Cleaners in Town!” or “Quality Muffler & Brake” but under Iowa law, an attorney can’t even call herself “Experienced.”

I wonder if its time for some of these old rules to go.

(Howard Zimmerle is an attorney with Michael J. Warner & Associates in Rock Island, Illinois)

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