What’s in a name? Quite a bit, if you happen to share a moniker with a rogue firm that has been shut down and hauled before the profession’s watchdogs.
Obiter heard last week from one poor solicitor whose entirely virtuous and legitimate practice was lumbered with the same name as a firm that had been up to no good.
With the disgraced firm’s details disappearing from search engines, it was left to its blameless namesake, many miles away, to field calls from angry clients demanding to know how it was going to rectify a situation that the firm had nothing to do with.
The Gazette is well aware of such problems, regularly noting at the foot of stories that the firm in the report is completely separate from one which, for example, hasn’t been dipping in the client account.
Having checked with the SRA, it seems there are no restrictions on giving your firm the same name as one already in practice. Obiter would nevertheless caution against any Dave Linklaters or Sue Freshfields naming their firm after themselves. It might generate some confusion.
Perhaps the answer might be to do adopt the famously strict rules of actors’ unions, such as Equity, which prevent members adopting the same stage names.
It was this regulation that stopped Batman star Michael Keaton working under his birth name of, er, Michael Douglas. With more than 10,000 firms out there, it’s time for lawyers to get more creative when naming their businesses.