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Law Firm Drops Trade-Name Ban Suit in New York

July 16, 2020, 5:00 PM

A lawsuit alleging New York’s ban on the use of trade names in law firm names violates the First Amendment has been dropped by Law HQ and its founder, Thomas Alvord.

“After this case was filed, the Appellate Divisions of the New York Supreme Court approved amendments to New York Rule of Professional Conduct 7.5 that eliminate the trade-name prohibition on which the plaintiffs’ claims were based,” the plaintiffs’ July 15 voluntary notice of dismissal said.

LawHQ is a Salt Lake City-based law firm that employs locally admitted lawyers outside of Utah to provide legal services in other states, according to its Jan. 23 complaint.

It wasn’t able to do so in jurisdictions like New York, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas, because they prohibited law firms with trade names. LawHQ sued bar officials in those states, arguing that the rules were unconstitutionally overbroad.

Georgia, Nebraska, and Ohio also have amended their rules since to eliminate the prohibitions the firm challenged, and those cases have been dismissed, Greg Beck, one of LawHQ’s attorneys, said in an email.

Beck is a litigator in Washington, with an expertise in commercial speech and lawyer advertising.

In a June 18 memo, the New York State Unified Court System said that rule 7.5’s “original intent was to prevent misleading the public about the identity, responsibility and status of those who use the name,” but it was “based on outdated professionalism standards” that had spurred a First Amendment challenge.

The Ohio case is still pending although the trade-name prohibition has been eliminated, Beck noted. Texas is amending its rule so that case has been stayed pending completion of that process, he said.

Indiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are still defending their rules and those case are being “actively litigated,” Beck said.

The case is LawHQ, LLC v. Dopico, S.D.N.Y., No. 1:20-cv-00616, 7/15/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at mstanzione@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; Tom P. Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com

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