Are you the next “Lincoln Lawyer?” Whether you’re a solo practitioner starting out on your own or an attorney joining others to form a partnership or other form of legal entity, there are things you must know about naming your firm. Here are some tips:

• Your State’s Rules of Professional Responsibility – always the first place to check is your state’s ethical rules. Arizona recently revised its Rule 7.5 which now allows limited use of trade names. (See Rule: ). The State Bar of Arizona’s ethics counsel, Patricia Sallen, wrote an excellent article about the rule change:

• Secretary of State – In Arizona, businesses are not required to register trade names or names used for “doing business as.” For a small fee, currently $10, a DBA or trade name can be registered with the state: Rather than provide any protection for the trade name, registering instead provides public notice to others of your use of the name. Incorporating can be enough to provide this function, but for solos or partners, registering the trade name provides a legal formality and is considered an acceptable business practice. Registration is good for five years. Read the SOS handbook at

If you are a solo practitioner, say named Abigail Lincoln, unless you are planning to call your firm “The Law Office of Abigail Lincoln” or “Abigail Lincoln, Attorney at Law,” would anything else be considered a trade name? Perhaps. Keep reading and find out how banks view names like “The Lincoln Law Firm.”

• Bank Accounts – When you visit your bank to open your operating and trust accounts the banker will most likely ask to see documentation of your corporate status. For solos or partnerships this can be problematic. Arizona does not require partnership agreements but banks have auditors to answer to and will push for them. In the alternative, if an attorney is calling the business anything other than the attorney’s first and last name, the bank will ask to see a DBA or trade name certificate. Where “Abigail Lincoln, Attorney at Law” will fly as a sole proprietorship, the name “The Lincoln Law Firm” will cause the bank to require a certificate. Arguing that Arizona doesn’t require DBAs or partnership agreements or the like is rarely successful with banks because they answer to a higher authority.

One option is for solos to use their first and last name on the bank accounts regardless of the business name. In doing so, keep in mind the ethical rules as mentioned above and also be consistent with your taxpayer id.

• Taxpayer ID numbers – we all have at least one known as a social security number. For businesses made up of more than a solo practitioner or those operating as a DBA or under a trade name, the option to use an EIN is available. An EIN or Employer Identification Number is also referred to as a Federal Tax Identification Number. Although solos aren’t required to obtain an EIN, partnerships and corporations must apply for and use one. Getting an EIN is free and can be done online, by phone, by fax or by mail. Visit the IRS website for complete information: . The EIN assigned to your business entity (partnership, corporation, DBA) will be required by the bank where you open your business account.

Even the most traditional of law firm names can cause a lawyer to have to come up with documentation that seems redundant. Keep these tips in mind and save yourself a trip!